Foreign national tops race to succeed Collymore


Mr Michael Joseph. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The race to succeed deceased Safaricom #ticker:SCOM CEO Bob Collymore gathered pace Tuesday with the board said to have settled on a foreign national to take over the helm of Kenya’s most profitable company.

The founder Safaricom boss Michael Joseph was named as interim boss, as ICT Secretary Joe Mucheru said appointment of the next chief executive is all up to the company’s board of directors.

“My wish is that a Kenyan gets the position, but we don’t control the business. We have appointed directors to run the business, it doesn’t mean that what the government wants is what it gets," said Mr Mucheru.

The Treasury owns 35 percent shares of the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed telco while British company Vodafone and its South African subsidiary Vodacom together control a 40 percent stake.

Vodafone is said to have a pre-emptive right to appoint the CEO of the Kenyan telecommunications company.

"We will wait for the board to decide," said Mr Mucheru in a phone interview as sources familiar with the matter indicated that the new CEO could be named later this week.

Safaricom will count on Mr Joseph, a 73-year-old dual American and Kenyan national who served as the firm’s founding CEO between July 2000 and November 2010, to transition the telco into new leadership.

The board on Monday held a special board meeting and made the interim appointment Tuesday morning.

"Mr Joseph will hold the position until the board communicates in due course on a permanent appointment," Safaricom said in a statement.

"The board is confident that during this transition, Mr Joseph will provide the necessary guidance and leadership to the company and its employees."

Mr Collymore’s body yesterday left the Lee Funeral Home in a procession to the Kariokor Crematorium in Nairobi for an interment ceremony attended only his by family and close friends. There will be a memorial service tomorrow.

Eyes will be on the Treasury to pick Collymore’s successor.

Board chairman Nicholas Nganga on Monday said although details of Collymore’s health condition were not always public, the board was aware of the need to have a succession plan in place for East and Central Africa’s most profitable firm.

Prior to extension of Collymore’s term and his death from cancer, there was speculation that the government was in favour of a local CEO, a standing that led to a split on the board.

Collymore’s term’s extension bought Vodafone and the Kenyan government time to negotiate on the successor.

Both Mr Joseph and the late Collymore succeeded at Safaricom despite their different styles of leadership.

Mr Joseph grew Safaricom’s customer base from as few as 20,000 subscribers to more than 16.71 million customers, led the company in listing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange and launched the revolutionary M-Pesa platform.

Mr Collymore turned Safaricom into East Africa’s most profitable company with over Sh1.1 trillion valuation and deepened the telco’s connection with its customers through sustainability programmes.

"We have been very fortunate and lucky to have him. Collymore understood what the DNA of Safaricom was all about and took it to another level," Mr Joseph eulogised Collymore, who upon entry at Safaricom promised to make his own shoe instead of filling Michael's.