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Citizen Weekly

Monday, 16 February 2015

MAJOR SHAKE-UP LOOMS AT NATION MEDIA GROUP

The media sector in the country is in turmoil following the retrenching of more than 100  employees at the prestigious Nation Media Group, a move that has sent shockwaves among journalists and chills down the spines of other cadres.
The sackings are one of the biggest retrenchment programmes that have been witnessed in the media industry in the recent times.
What is troubling is that the Kenya Union of Journalists which is supposed to defend journalists’ rights has buried its head in the sand as Aga Khan’s company continues to consign more workers into starvation.
The latest victims are more than 30 customer care employees who have had their responsibilities contracted to G4S security guards raising questions as to what is really happening at the Kimathi Street twin towers .
Reports reaching Weekly Citizen indicate that the axe is set to shift to the top management as a new editorial director is expected to be appointed to replace Joseph Odindo, who retired late last year.
Tom Mshindi is the acting editorial director-cum-chief operating officer. A new chief executive officer is to replace Linus Gitahi, who is retiring.
The name of former East African Breweries CEO, Gerald Mahinda, who is the Sub-Saharan managing director of Kellogg Asia Pacific which he joined after leaving the South Africa based Sab Miller Pty last year, is featuring prominently as the new man at the helm.
The possibility of Mshindi taking over as the editorial director is neither here nor there. Group managing editor of the Daily Nation Mutuma Mathiu is said to be in a pole position to take over as the editorial director because of the powerful forces who favour him against his Sunday Nation counterpart Eric Obino.
Matters were complicated further for Mshindi after the NMG board established the position COO in the new management structure while he has been holding that position at the mercy of Gitahi.
The new CEO is expected to appoint his own COO as this position is handed to a close confidante of the CEO and acts as his deputy.
Mshindi can however, land the editorial director’s post if he accepts to climb down the management ladder from the COO’s position.
If Mahinda is going to take over as the new CEO at the NMG, then one person who must be looking for a job or considering running his own businesses is the current financial director, Stephen Kitagama.
The two worked together at EABL and reports say they were not the best of friends. Questions have also been raised over Kitagama’s fiscal management given that NMG has not posted profits worth writing home about in the past two years as the financial reserves are dry.
Since September last year, the giant media group has quietly sent packing more than 100 employees in different departments who include journalists, advertising and circulation sales executives, and technical employees at its printing press.
Some of the high ranking editorial staff who have left since September last year include deputy training editor Owino Opondo, investigations editor Samuel Siringi, deputy news editor Patrick Mayoyo, Nakuru bureau chief Julius Bosire, deputy features editor Elly Wamari, revise editors Dorothy Kweyu and David Nyaga among others.
Scores of subordinate staff, correspondents, reporters, graphic designers, photographers and subeditors across the media company’s platforms and bureaus have also been laid off.
The changes followed recommendations of PriceWaterhouseCoopers which was contracted last year to undertake a staff rationalisation and restructuring programme that is now currently being implemented.
Staff at the Nation Centre are crossing their fingers as the human resource department continues to swing the Sword of Damocles above their heads, slaying them one after the other.
This is happening as word doing the rounds has it that the wealthy Kenyatta family which holds a 17pc stake in NMG is planning to increase its shareholding by buying out the smallshareholders handsomely. Initially, Kenyatta family which also owns Mediamax under whose staple is Kameme FM, Milele FM which they bought from and together with Granton Samboja, the now free newspaper People Daily and K24 television among others planned to buy the Standard group but this came a cropper. Mediamax had poached Ian Fernadez from NMG to bring a magic touch but this is yet to be seen hence the shift on NMG. Industry observers are looking at interesting times ahead given that the Kenyatta and Aga Khan families have a long history. The house in which Uhuru Kenyatta lives in Caledonia Estate next to State House was once owned by Aga Khan who gave it to president Jomo Kenyatta.