[dropcap]S[/dropcap]tandard Group, Kenya’s second biggest media house, has announced that its editorial director, Mr Joseph Odindo, will be leaving in November at the end of his three year contract. The company said Mr Odindo, who joined Standard in 2015 a year after leaving Nation Media Group, would not be renewing his contract.
In an internal memo seen by Business Today, Standrad Group CEO Orlando Lyomu said Odindo had led a successful relaunch of the newspapers, which had improved content. “While we acknowledge that a lot more needs to be done to achieve our goals,” Mr Lyomu said in the memo, dated 29th June 2018, “I regret to announce that Mr Odindo has opted not to have his contract renewed when it ends in November this year.”
He said since his appointment in November 2015, Mr Odindo had deployed his immense experience of nearly four decades in media to provide strategic editorial leadership to the Standard Group, helping strengthen its editorial products across print broadcast and digital platforms.
He said the relaunch of the Standard, which has been dismissed in some quarters as a flop, had seen it deliver competitive editorial content. The newspaper’s circulation has been falling since the relaunch, at some point touching a low of 30,000 copies per day.
Mr Lyomu said the Standard would soon start the process of find Mr Odindo’s replacement. However, there are already strong pointers to an insider taking over from Mr Odindo, whose contract caused grumbles November last year after it emerged it had been extended from the initial two to three years without board approval. He was allowed to stay for the third year, but Mr Sam Shollei, the CEO who hired him, was forced out.
Daily editions Managing Editor Kipkoech Tanui is likely to step into Mr Odindo’s large shoes. Mr Tanui has been understudying Mr Odindo as deputy editorial director, a rare post in media structures. Perhaps in readiness for the assignment, Mr Tanui even enrolled for a Master’s course at the University of Nairobi. He is due to graduate in December. Mr Tanui, known for his poetic prose, has risen through the ranks, from a reporter at Daily Nation to the influential positions at Standard.
His Managing Editor position is billed to go to Mr Andrew Kipkemboi, who currently opinion editor. Mr Kemboi is, too, an influential Standard insider, who has risen from sub-editor position.
Mr Odindo’s exit will certainly bring out Standard’s traditional political balancing when it comes to editorial and management positions. As an unwritten rule, Standard Group, thanks to its ownership, almost always retains a Kalenjin (preferably Tugen or Keyio) in an influential position. Its owners include retired President Daniel arap Moi and his family (who belong to the Tugen clan of the Kalenjin) together with his close associates such as Joshua Kulei.
Mr Shollei’s time, at some point both the editorial head (John Bundotich) and CEO (Shollei), were both Kalenjins, before Mr Odindo’s was brought in to tilt the balance. Before Mr Shollei, there was Paul Melly who was deputy chairman and de facto CEO with editorial leadership alternating between Kalenjins and journalists from other communities.
After confirming Lyomu as CEO, a man from Busia, it follows almost necessarily that the editorial head will be a Kalenjin. This confirmation may as well have sealed Mr Odindo’s fate since principal shareholders are keen to have their interests safeguarded at the media house, both business and in politics, by trusted confidantes.
The Kalenjin connection
The Standard board was keen on having a Kalenjin CEO but failed to secure the ‘right’ candidate. At some point former Uchumi CEO Julius Kipngetich was touted as a possible candidate but developed cold feet and joined Jubilee Insurance holdings as CEO.
Standard Group former finance director Chris Kisire looked set to come back but one wing of the powerful shareholders shot his ambitions down and even influenced a negative story on page one of the Standard newspaper when he was implicated in fraud by the Capital Markets Authority in the financial misdeeds at the National Bank of Kenya. CMA disqualified those named from leading as listed company.