Standard Group, the publisher of Kenya’s second largest newspaper, is set to unveil a new CEO, days after the board edged out Orlando Lyomu. It is understood that, for now, the company will appoint an insider in acting capacity pending recruitment of a substantive CEO.
Insiders at Standard Group Centre on Mombasa Road say the board may have settled on Mr Joe Munene, the managing director for broadcast division, to hold brief as acting CEO. Mr Munene has been at Standard for many years and is seen as the senior most manager after the CEO, though it is also rumoured he is in talks with Cape Media, which runs TV 47 and Radio 47.
Acting as CEO will give him a head start in the race for the top job even as jostling takes centre stage among board members. Mr Munene, who was seen active during the KTN relaunch last week, understands the worsening financial situation at Standard Group, with piling losses and salary arrears.
Mr Lyomu also acted before being confirmed, and presided over about six years of mixed fortunes for Standard Group, ending up with the company’s biggest loss ever of Ksh1 billion for the year ending 31st December 2022.
Mr Lyomu blames the drastic loss to an increase in the provision for expected credit losses, due to pending government bills and provisioning for servicing debt. Standard Group is weighed down by huge loans, with cost of servicing its financing rising to Ksh215 million in 2022 – over 20% of its loss – against Ksh162.8 million in 2021.
The board has created a transformation committee led by one board member to try and turnaround things for Standard Group. The committee says it will take about 18 months for Standard to begin breathing easy.
One of the key areas it is focusing on is the issue of ghost workers who have been sucking the company’s resources. The committee and new CEO will also be tackling the sticky matter of talent, the company having lost many of its good journalists to other media houses, government and corporate sector over the past two or so years.
Talent loss has complicated the work of editors and section heads, and driven morale down the tube. There will also be need for a serious audit some of its products, especially the radio and TV stations launched over the past five years but yet to break even.
Also, as a sign of hope, employees today received 40% of their March 2023 salaries.