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

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.

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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.

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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.

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