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Executive Decision

Standard Group CEO resignation causes tension

The move has thrown the media house into turmoil once again and forced the owners back to the drawing board

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Sam Shollei: Has turned around Standard Group from a loss to profitability.

Standard Group chief executive Sam Shollei has reportedly resigned in what appears to be the culmination of a fallout with some key people in the company’s board.

Mr Shollei is understood to have quit under pressure from Gideon Moi, one of the principal shareholders at Standard representing the interests of Daniel arap Moi family, its main shareholder. His exit comes just eight months after the board gave him three more years at the helm.

The sudden move has thrown the media house into turmoil once again and taken the owners back to the drawing board to get a new CEO.

Inside sources at Standard say the company’s board will be meeting tomorrow to endorse his exit. “We don’t know what’s going on, but what I have heard is that Gideon Moi is the one behind Shollei’s reisignation,” said a senior journalist at the Standard.

RELATED: After rebooting, Shollei says Standard focused on growing revenues

It is not clear what caused the fallout, especially given the glowing words the board heaped on Shollei while renewing his contract in December. “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,” said Shaun Zambuni, a member of the board speaking on behalf of the chairman.

But the tide appears to have turned drastically over the past eight months. Mr Shollei, who was headhunted from Nation Media Group in 2012, has been working to re-energise Kenya’s second biggest media company, where he executed a painful retrenchment to cut costs and grow profits.

During his reign profits fell, as revenues shrank due to a drop in ad incomes.

Some blame poor performance on an expensive payroll, which was trimmed in late 2015, pushing out some of its longest serving journalists.

Yet from a loss of Ksh289.6 million in 2015, Standard Group swung back into profit in 2016, boosted largely by falling operating costs and slightly higher revenues. It made a net profit of Ksh198.5 million, an impressive 169% growth that shook the media industry and even the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

ALSO SEE: Standard to pay Miguna Miguna millions for defamation

With such a turnaround, someone would have thought Shollei had vindicated his extended presence at Standard and generous expenditure on new products such as Radio Maisha, KTN News and The Nairobian. The Standard CEO’s seat is always hot and Shollei’s exit confirms just how family and political interests often triumph over corporate strategy at the company.

Business Today is the leading independent online business website in Kenya. Started in 2012 by a veteran business journalist, it has a huge following both in Kenya and abroad. It covers various business and related issues. Email editor at: [email protected]

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Executive Decision

Angela Ndambuki takes over as KNCCI chief executive

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New KNCCI Chief Executive Officer Angela Ndambuki.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) has appointed Ms. Angela Ndambuki as the new Chief Executive Officer.

Ms Angela, who took over Monday, succeeds George Kiondo who has been the Acting CEO for the last 8 months.

In a press statement, KNCCI chairman Kiprono Kittony said that after a rigorous search, the Board concluded that Ms Ndambuki’s leadership and considerable experience in strategic leadership, advocacy brings a wealth of business knowledge and management experience.

Ndambuki, a former singer with Tatuu band, previously worked with the Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) as the CEO and demonstrated throughout her career the ability to work successfully in different environments, designing and leading strategies which resulted in impressive value creation.

“I look forward to working with her to create the next chapter of the KNCCI’s story of success. I also thank Mr Kiondo for his exemplary leadership of KNCCI over the last eight months,” Kittony said.

He noted that Kiondo has ensured that the organization has continued to move forward both strategically and operationally, and has delivered results having taken on additional responsibility at a critical time for the Company.

Kiondo, the former Acting CEO, said: “I welcome Ms. Ndambuki to her new role and wish her every success. I should like to thank all my colleagues for their support during the past 8 months. I will continue to offer my support and ensure that the Company continues to drive forward.”

Ndambuki, on the other hand, said she was excited to take over as the new CEO especially at this time when the country is experiencing great and favorable attention as the most preferred investment destination in Africa from leading global investment agencies.

Related: Dubai trade mission to tighten ties with Kenya

“My role will focus on enhancing this image and grow the international investors’ portfolio. With the same energy we shall focus on key advocacy issues affecting the business community to ensure a favorable business climate for Kenyan companies and facilitate ease of doing business,” she said.

She promised to grow the KNCCI membership in partnership with all the 47 county chapters to include all corporates and SMEs countrywide.

Ms Ndambuki is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She holds a Master of Laws Degree (LLM) in Intellectual Property Law from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

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Business News

Former spymaster joins KQ board

The changes come at a time the national carrier is seeking government help to ward off competition from other airlines at JKIA hub

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Former National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director General Maj Gen (Rtd) Michael Gichangi.

Former Director General of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Maj Gen (Rtd) Michael Gichangi was among three directors elected last Friday to join the board of national carrier, Kenya Airways. The others are Prof Paul Mwangi Maringa and Ms Caroline Armstrong, according to a notice in a section of today’s press.

The three were elected during KQ’s Annual General Meeting. Maj Gen (Rtd) Gichangi left the NIS in 2014 having been appointed to the position in 2006 for an initial term of five years . He was elected to replace to replace one of the two members – Wanjiku Mugane and Ronald Schipper – who retired.

Since he left the spy agency, Gichangi has kept a low profile after failing to take up his appointment by President Uhuru Kenyatta as chairman of the Private Security Regulatory Authority board in 2016.

Prof Mwangi, who is the Principal Secretary in the State Department of Public Works, holds Bachelor of Architecture (hons) and Master of Arts (Planning) from the Universty of Nairobi and a Doctor of Philosply from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. His professional profile includes design works for several landmark buildings in Kenya and elsewhere, including military barracks.

READ: Barclays closes down seven branches

Ms Armstrong, on the other hand, has vast experience in project management and in the banking industry rising the ranks from a management trainee at ABN Amro Bank to serve in senior positions at Barclays Bank and Housing Finance Company. She is presently the Group Strategic Projects Director at HF Group.

She has been a non-executive director at both Kenya Airways and Jambonet, a KQ subsidiary company.

During the stormy AGM, shareholders demanded a review of the airline’s partnership with KLM, which they said had failed the mutual benefit test. They opined the Dutch airline had turned into a competitor rathe than a business partner to KQ’s disadvantage.

It also emerged the process of commencing direct flights to the United States will take more time to be actualised due to pending audits and partnerships with other airlines that would need to be inked to facilitate seamless flights.

ALSO SEE: GoK finds a creative way to rescue ailing Kenya Airways

The board changes come at a time the national carrier is seeking government help to ward off competition from other airlines at its Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) hub.

“Everybody wants an airline, the question is; are we all playing the same rules?” chief executive Sebastian Mikosz posed at a press conference on Thursday last week.

Chairman Michael Joseph said they had been in discussions with the government and the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) prior to the elections and that the negotiations were expected to continue after the political season is over.

“We need to have a bit more aggressive strategies from the government in protecting our airline and our airport,” said Mr Joseph.

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Executive Decision

NMG rehires former senior editor as director

Veteran editor rejoins media house’s board in an advisory role at a time its products are under the microscope over alleged political bias

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Former Nation Media Group Editorial Director Wangethi Mwangi. He has rejoined the company as a non-executive director.

Former Nation Media Group (NMG) Editorial Director Wangethi Mwangi has made a comeback as the media house seeks to revamp its editorial output to boost revenue.

Mr Wangethi, who left the twin towers nearly 10 years ago, has been appointed as a non-executive director and will be playing an advisory role. NMG, the region’s largest media house, has seen its revenues decline over the years amid a squeeze in advertising spend by the government and major corporates.

Last year, former Special Projects Editor Macharia Gaitho was also recalled out of retirement to head the political desk at Nation Centre as the country prepared for the August 8 General Election.

However, the media house has been under the microscope both internally and externally, due to perceptions of bias in the coverage of issues emerging from the contested presidential election.

READ: Sh1 million up for grabs in Churchill comedy talent search
SEE: Standard top editor on the spot as layoff looms

On Thursday, for instance, questions were raised after the Daily Nation went to town with a splash headline indicating the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had been let off the hook while, in actual sense, the majority of the Supreme Court judges based their decision to nullify President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win on account of illegalities and irregularities it committed during the transmission of results.

The headline was based on the four judges’ view that though there were “systemic institutional problems”, they could not finger anyone to have been personally culpable for the same.

What raised more questions was that the headline was at variance with the paper’s editorial, which demanded that “IEBC must get it right in the repeat poll.”

In the newspaper industry, an editorial, also known as the leader, is the product of deliberations by the editorial board regarding which issues are important for their readership to know the newspaper’s opinion.

At other times, an editorial presents the opinion of the publisher, manager or the editor himself.

The question that then arises is at what point did Daily Nation’s editors decide to lead with a story exonerating IEBC when they had already made a decision that more was needed from the electoral agency ahead of the fresh election?

Related: Macharia Gaitho returns to Daily Nation as political reporter

The story was also at variance with a piece done by Gaitho on the same. Some critics have offered that the decision could have been informed by an attempt at product differentiation but still, this does not reflect well on the media house, which only recently had to reach out to Nasa after Siaya senator James Orengo asked Opposition supporters to boycott its products.

These are some of the issues Wangethi is expected to confront if he is to enhance NMG’s fortunes.

Currently, he is a member of the Media Complaints Commission (MCC), a position he was appointed to by Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru on September 6 last year for a period of three years.

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Executive Decision

Standard Group shops for a CEO at Uchumi

It is understood Dr Julius Kipngetich has all but agreed to become the media house’s next CEO when his contract expires next month

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Uchumi Supermarkets CEO Julius Kipngetich. He is set to take over at Mombasa Road-based Standard Group

Barely two weeks after Standard Group CEO Sam Shollei resigned, it has emerged that he is set to be replaced by a local captain of industry. It is understood that Uchumi CEO Julius Kipngetich is certainly taking over the baton in running Standard Group, which owns Kenya’s second largest daily newspaper, The Standard, and television station, KTN, among other media platforms.

Sources have indicated to Business Today that Mr Kipngetich, whose contract at Uchumi expires next month, has agreed to join Standard. Mr Kipngetich joined Uchumi in August 2015 from Equity Bank where he had worked for three years. He was expected to help turn around the fortunes of Kenya’s oldest supermarket brand but things have not been easy for him, with efforts to get a government bailout hitting a snag.

The Standard Group Board has been talking to Mr Kipngetich and is said to have reached a deal with him.  Kipngetich, clearly frustrated at the slow pace of recovery at Uchumi, will be happy to join a media company with huge potential.

READ: Nine prestigious careers you can get in media

He had recently announced that Uchumi had secured a strategic investor who is set to inject Ksh3.5 billion into the retailer which will partly plug the Ksh5 billion debt hole the supermarket chain owes suppliers and financiers. That has not materialised. Meanwhile, the government has been dithering in releasing Ksh1.2 billion to the retailer as part of a bailout loan, leaving the retail chain gasping for breath.

This is what could have influenced his decision to grab the opportunity offered by The Standard Group as all his hope of turning Uchumi into the “Equity of the retail market” appears to have evaporated.

But it will still be a different ball-game altogether, moving from selling commodities off the shelves to dealing in one of the most perishable commodities there is: news! His stint at Kenya Wildlife Services, which he lifted from the deathbed to one of the most admired organisations, earned him high grades and the tag turnaround CEO. This will be tested critically as he begins to deal with newsroom forces of journalism, sources, advertisers and deadlines.

Mr Shollei had put the company on the road to recovery, butfell out with the board and principal shareholders over a number of issues.

ALSO SEE: How Sam Shollei dug his own grave at Standard

Standard Finance Director Orlando Lyomu was appointed in acting capacity as the company searches for a substantive replacement.  At Standard Group, staff are not very excited about Kipngetich, saying he may not have the stamina to run a media company with very strong external political influence.

“People here feel he is an over-rated turn-around CEO,” said a senior editor, who works at Standard Group. “We can’t bank so much on him. But we know we have strong soldiers on the ground to deliver solid products for both print and broadcast.”

His background

Dr  Julius Kangogo Kipngetich, CBS, has been Chief Executive Officer of Uchumi Supermarkets Limited since August 3, 2015. Dr Kipng’etich served as the Chief Operating Officer of Equity Group Holdings Limited until September 4, 2015 and served as its Executive Director from June 27, 2008 to January 05, 2015. Dr Kipng’etich served as the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Wildlife Service. Before then, he served as a Managing Director of Kenya Wildlife Services.

Related: Standard top editor on the spot as layoff looms

He previously served as the Managing Director of Investment Promotion Centre. Kipngetich also serves as a Director of Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation.

He holds a Masters of Business Administration degree and a Bachelors of Commerce in Accounting option degree from University of Nairobi.

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