How Sam Shollei dug his own grave at Standard

Board is understood to have questioned a number of his operational decisions that have not paid off, including the newspaper redesign

A day after he resigned, it has emerged that Standard CEO am Shollei may have dug his own grave in the name of turning around the Standard Group, the second leading multi-media company in Kenya.

Someone close to Shollei said he had resigned last week due to frustrations and was waiting for the board to accept his resignation, which it did today and appointed the finance director Mr Orlando Lyomu to act.

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Under the conflict of interest, Shollei is accused of using the Standard print, electronic and digital platform to campaign for his wife, Gladys Boss Shollei, who ran and won the Uasin Gishu County Woman Representative seat. As Standard promoted Gladys on their platforms, it forgot to cover candidates affiliated to KANU, the former ruling party headed by Gideon Moi, who is a principal shareholder in Standard Group.

The Moi family owns majority shares in Standard while about 25% is listed at the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). “KANU candidates were never featured on Standard or KTN, while his wife was constantly being covered,” a source said. “He didn’t play the politics well.”

Moving back to town

But that is just a fraction of Shollei’s woes. The former Nation Media Group manager is also accused of overspending on the shifting of its head offices and newsroom from Standard Group Centre Mombasa Road to city centre. According to board insiders, the management spent Ksh60 million on the movement to I&M building, which included rent, refurbishing and furnishing offices.

The movement has flopped, sources say. The proponents of the movement, led by Editorial Director Joseph Odindo, argued that being based in the city centre would increase circulation for Standard, but that has yet to be achieved. This points to the fact that the problem with Standard Group lies not in the location but somewhere else, possibly content.

The redesign of the Standard in March this year has also been questioned. The board’s feeling is that the change of design and content are not paying off after the company splashed over Sh60 million on it. It has also emerged that the latest redesign, done by American design experts, followed another one executed by Germans but which was discarded in favour of the Americans. What caused this change is not clear.

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Then there is the little but explosive issue that will have employees cringing. The Standard management had proposed another round of retrenchment to the board to save the company more funds, which would have required millions of shillings, but the board rejected it, arguing it was too soon after the November 2015 layoff.

 

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