The Standard Group board of directors has handed beleaguered Chief Executive Officer Sam Shollei three more years to run the media house. The announcement was made today to staff by group head of human resources Nicholas Siwaton, giving Shollei breathing space after strong speculation that he was set to be shown the door at the end of his term on December 31st 2016.
“The Board is pleased to retain Mr Shollei for a further three years to continue the Group’s ongoing business renewal programme and to lead the organization to greater heights of success as we implement the new corporate strategy,” Shaun Zambuni, a member of the board speaking on behalf of the chairman is quoted as saying.
In granting him more tenure, the Group says in the memo to staff that Mr Shollei has extensive leadership experience in the media industry across East Africa, with a rich mix of financial and commercial skills, as well as a deep understanding of the Standard Group and its markets. The company last year laid off nearly a quarter of its staff to trim its wage bill and create a competitive team besides launching a 24-hour news TV station, KTN News.
The decision caught a section of the staff by surprise, as many knew he was leaving. Some had started preparing Francis Munywoki as the next CEO. Munywoki, who is the Managing Director for Print OPerations, is married into the Moi family, who are the principal shareholders in the media house.
Standard Group Management was divided into two camps – those for Munywoki on one side and Shollei on the other – with Munywoki backers openly defying and antagonising the CEO, who may return the favour in kind.
Insiders say the move has also miffed majority of commercial department employees who see Mr Shollei as a stumbling block to the independence needed to drive the media house’s revenues up. When he moved in, he pushed out employees in key commercial positions and replaced them with a breed of newbies who have been struggling to get the hang of the group’s operations and in the process cost it readership and advertising revenues.
“He came in and unseated many former people who had been doing well,” said an insider at the commercial department. “The likes of Irene Kimani who is in charge of commercial is seen as young and inexperienced.”
The so-called team leaders, who are 10 in number, blow huge salaries and allowances, with each getting an average monthly wage of Ksh700,000. This sets the company back Ksh7 million every month, yet it has performing dismally on most of its indicators.
The group, in fact, slid into the red last year, announcing a paltry Ksh21 million profit before taxation (just three months salaries for the 10 team leaders) for the full-year after being forced to issue profit warning earlier. The company has yet to release its half-year results for the current trading year, but given the tight media market, the results are expected to be no better. Its rival Nation Media Group, seen as industry barometer, recorded a Ksh140 million drop in profit for half-year to June 2016.
Shollei, who was headhunted from Nation Media Group in 2012, is said to be a sympathiser of the Jubilee Government, a stand that could limit how deep the newsroom can cut through the Uhuru Kenyatta administration.
Hated and loved equally
But he appears to get some support from a good number of journalists in newsroom in what looks like a change of heart after Joseph Odindo, a former Nation editorial top cop, joined in last year.
“Well, he (Shollei) supports Odindo who has good intentions for journalists,” said a senior journalist working for the group. “There is, however, a group that, you know, has been fighting Odindo and now they will have to take a backseat. Since Shollei brought in Odindo, he has not been that bad since he has left the editorial part to him to run.”
Shollei is said to be hated and liked in equal measure at Standard Group, due to mainly individual interests. But generally, the newsroom’s consolation is summarised by one journalists who told BT, “It’s better the devil you know.”
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HERE IS THE MEMO
We are pleased to announce that the Board of Directors of the Standard Group Limited has extended the contract of Mr. Sam Shollei as Chief Executive Officer for a further three years, effective 1st January 2017.
On behalf of the Board Chairman, Board member Shaun Zambuni stated: “The Board is pleased to retain Mr. Shollei for a further three years to continue the Group’s ongoing business renewal programme and to lead the organization to greater heights of success as we implement the new corporate strategy.”
Mr. Shollei has extensive leadership experience in the media industry across East Africa, with a rich mix of financial and commercial skills, as well as a deep understanding of the Standard Group and its markets, which make him well- suited to continue to lead the company in the coming years.
Kindly join me and the Group’s Executive Management in congratulating Mr. Shollei for the confidence the Board has shown in his leadership.
Group Head of Human Resources