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Uhuru Kenyatta Puts Up Media Company For Sale

While serving as President, Uhuru Kenyatta had a very strong appetite for media business

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Tension is building up at Mediamax Network, the media company owned by former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family, after it emerged that they could be considering selling it off.

Employees at the company, based at DSM building in Nairobi, have been crying foul over how the company is run by current CEO Ken Ngaruiya, whom they accuse of highhandedness. In a protest letter to the board, the employees revealed that there is word that the company is in the process of changing hands.

“We acknowledge business has been slow but we are also aware and very sure that this is a very potential organization if we can have a leader,” say the employees in a letter dated 20th January, 2023, copied to all board members. “On the other hand, the CEO has been quoted saying the organization shall be changing hands soon. If this is the case, does this mean we as staff shall lose our benefits?”

Employees are not taking lightly this statement reportedly from CEO. Indeed being on he board the CEO knows one or two things about shareholders’ strategies. Most employees fear they could lose their jobs if a new investor takes over.

Uhuru Kenyatta’s family got into media business as he sought a foothold in politics, where the media plays a key role. The aim was to use Mediamax to drive his agenda given that the other mainstream media houses are privately owned and often pushing commercial interests.

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At some point, Uhuru even showed interest in acquiring Standard Group, owned by the Moi family but his quest waned off due to tough conditions set. When there was rumour that Aga Khan was looking to divest from Nation Media Group, Uhuru, then president, is said to have been interested in bidding for the Aga Khan’s majority stake in Kenya’s leading media house. That also hit a snag when Aga Khan changed his mind and decided to push for reforms in the management of NMG.

Mr Uhuru, now out of politics, may want to get out of media business, which has proved less profitable in the face of stiff competition and the onslaught of new technologies. Mediamax runs the People Daily newspaper, K24 and Kameme TV, and a host of radio stations including Milele FM and Kameme FM.

The company is principally owned by former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family who assembled it together by acquiring various platforms. The People Daily newspaper was acquired from the late Kenneth Matiba’s family, while K24 and Kamame were bought from entrepreneur Rose Kimotho.

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Milele FM radio, founded by Granton Samboja, a former journalist and governor of Taita Taveta County, was roped in, earning him a stake in Mediamax and a seat on the board. The company then went on to buyout a number of radio stations, including launching Imo FM, which was initially spearheaded by then Deputy President William Ruto, who would later become president. It is said Ruto’s stake in Mediamax was bought out after he fell out with President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was majority shareholder.

It’s not yet clear who could be interested in buying Mediamax, especially given its struggling newspaper and TV business, but its board is composed of a group of rich-men and women who can as well snap up the stake. Alternatively, the company can dispose of the newspaper and TV business and focus more on radio, which appears to be doing well.

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