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Joe Muganda: Former beer seller leaves NMG high and dry

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen the Nation Media Group (NMG) announced the appointment of Joe Muganda as its Chief Executive Officer on May 4, 2015, to take over from Linus Gitahi, it banked on his “able expertise, knowledge and experience in corporate governance, marketing, communication and general management” to push ahead with the transformation that was already underway at Nation Centre.

Today, Muganda, who joined the group from Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) where he had been managing director for five years, is set to leave in less that a week’s time even before his tenure ends to join Vivo Energy as Managing Director.

Pundits say for the two and a half years at Nation Centre, there is nothing to write home about his tenure except, perhaps, the media house’s acquisition of infotainment outlet, Kenya Buzz, which was meant to provide an extra revenue stream but whose impact is yet to be established. NMG’s earnings last year are believed to have been hit hard by various factors, including reduced ad revenue and prolonged electioneering.

While Muganda set out to turn NMG into a 21st century digital media house by embracing, among others, a converged newsroom model, his stay at the helm at Nation Centre best proves the folly of outsourcing media CEOs from outside the industry.

SEE ALSO: NMG fires top TV and newspaper editors 

While they make good bean counters and can help in enriching the balance sheet, it is unlikely Muganda was prepared for the disruptions caused by digital migration, emergence of new media and a squeeze in ad spend by both the government and corporates, which is said to have caused the media industry in Kenya more than Ksh 2 billion in lost revenue over the last two years.

Muganda is a highly qualified manager by any standards. He holds an MBA from Leicester University and a Bachelor of Science (Economics, Accounting and Financial Management) from the University of Buckingham (UK). He has also previously held senior positions at various companies.

Announcing his imminent departure last month, NMG board chairman Wilfred Kiboro hailed him for the changes he has presided over at Nation Centre, saying he had repositioned the company on a digital growth path. He added that Muganda had “aggressively driven our product portfolio review, presided over a general restructuring and re-oriented the business to seize the opportunities presented by the digital disruption in the media sector”.

“He will leave a leaner, nimbler organisation whose future commercial success is already evident in the positive trajectory of returns from the investments in digital initiatives,” said Mr Kiboro at the time as he wished him “well in his future pursuits.”

‘We may be witnessing the beginnings of the death of a media giant. I do not see how NMG will deliver on its targets without a massive fresh recruitment.’

However, insiders say the two restructuring programmes he has presided over with the sole purpose of cutting the wage bill to grow revenue has left NMG in a delicate situation as key personnel who were in charge of content generation exited the scene, leading to criticism that the media house no longer sets the “agenda for the nation.”

Following the latest purge that saw top editorial managers at both the broadcasting and print divisions edged out, a former senior NMG editor quipped: “We may be witnessing the beginnings of the death of a media giant. I do not see how NMG will deliver on its targets without a massive fresh recruitment. And if you look in the market, who is available to manage content, for example?”

READ: Nation Media unable to pay sacked employees

Another former Investigations and Special Projects Editor Dennis Galava, who was controversially suspended and later sacked allegedly at the prompting of top State officials, likened Muganda to a thieving banker in an interview with BBC.

In an affidavit he filed in court to contest his firing and to demand for compensation, he quoted Editor-in-Chief Tom Mshindi as allegedly stating that Muganda was clueless and could not conceptualise how the knowledge industry works. Mshindi added casually that Mr Muganda “only thought in terms of beer production chains and cigarette vending machines.”, the affidavit read in part.

Clearly, while beer is as a fast moving consumer good as news can be, Muganda did not have the bottle to manage a pace-setting media house.

With top managers refusing to be retrenched without full compensation, NMG, a Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE)-listed company, has been left high and dry.  The next few weeks will prove crucial for the survival of the nearly 60-years-old media house, whose main shareholder is His Highness The Aga Khan.

READ: How to adjust to the new normal in management

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