Executive changes that made headlines in corporate Kenya

Revolving door: A round-up of corner offices that bid occupants farewell and found new tenants. FILE PHOTOS | NMG
Revolving door: A round-up of corner offices that bid occupants farewell and found new tenants. FILE PHOTOS | NMG 

2017 was exceptionally turbulent in corporate Kenya’s executive suites as companies hunted for the right talent to steer them through a difficult year.

At Uchumi #ticker:UCHM and Mumias,#ticker:MSC company chiefs who had been billed as turnaround experts threw in the towel.

National carrier Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ flew across borders to look for the man expected to sail it through the current financial turbulence.

There was a lot of movement in the energy sector as bosses of the two main power parastatals bowed out after reaching the retirement age of 60.

Former Bamburi #ticker:BAMB chief executive, Bruno Pescheux, is now part of ongoing investigations into terror financing in his native France in a case that is connected to his time at Lafarge, Syria.  


Uchumi-Exit Julius Kipng’etich

Julius Kipng’etich was appointed Uchumi chief executive two years ago with high expectations that he would turn around the ailing company.

When he suddenly quit at the end of November, there was little to show for his time at Uchumi.

Shelves at the supermarket remained empty, and the retailer was surviving on the hope of a government loan.

Mr Kipng’etich’s credentials included turning around the KWS and a stint at Equity Bank where he was once thought to be the heir apparent to Mr James Mwangi’s corner office.

The retailer has, since Mr Kipng’etich’s exit, freshly stocked 19 of its 20 branches in time for the festive season and is banking on the momentum to give it a new lease of life.

READ: Inside the Sh7bn turnaround plan for Uchumi supermarket
Kenya Airways- Enter Sebastian Mikosz

The ailing national carrier head-hunted Sebastian Mikosz, an aviation expert with solid turnaround credentials from his former employer, LOT Polish Airlines.

Mr Mikosz is one of the fresh faces at KQ’s cockpit after the government last year prevailed on former Safaricom chief executive, Mr Michael Joseph, to chair the board of the carrier.

Mr Mikosz, who calls himself a ‘fresh Kenyan,’ brought on board a team of five aviation experts whom he said had been instrumental in rescuing LOT Polish Airlines. However, Mr Mikosz will have to weather labour unrest and a shrinking top line to rescue KQ.

Sidian Bank- Exit Titus Karanja

Titus Karanja resigned from the post of chief executive at Sidian Bank in July and was replaced by former Credit Bank boss Chege Thumbi.

At the time, Sidian said that Mr Karanja had left to “pursue other interests”.

Mr Thumbi faces the heavy task of returning Sidian to profitability. The company sank deeper into losses in the nine months to September, reporting a loss of Sh274 million compared to a net profit of Sh220 million during a similar period last year.

Sidian Bank has attributed the poor performance to lower interest caps as a consequence of the rate cap regime introduced by a change in law last year.

Kenya Power- Exit Ben Chumo, Enter Ken Tarus

Electricity distributor Kenya Power saw an overhaul of its leadership as its chief executive retired at the beginning of the year.

In January Ben Chumo retired from his post as chief executive of Kenya Power after his attempt at securing a second, three-year term was thwarted by the Industrial Court.

Dr Chumo, who said he planned to join academia, left a mixed-basket at Kenya power.

Into his shoes stepped Ken Tarus, former Kenya Power general manager of Finance who was confirmed as chief executive of the electricity distributor in August.

Dr Tarus has the task of addressing mounting customer debt, power losses and illegal electricity connections that have been robbing the firm of revenues.

Energy Regulatory Commission-Exit Joseph Ng’ang’a, Enter Robert Pavel Oimeke

After more than three decades in the energy sector, Joseph Ng’ang’a quit the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in a surprise move in January. He left the regulator eight months before his term expired.

His decision to leave was linked to his having attained the retirement age of 60. His departure opened the door for Robert Pavel Oimeke to become the director-general of the ERC, first in an acting capacity before he was confirmed in December.

Mr Oimeke previously served as the ERC’s director of renewable energy and was part of a trend in which energy sector parastatals chose to confirm acting bosses, even after going through lengthy recruitment processes.

KenGen- Exit Albert Mugo, Enter Rebecca Miano

Rebecca Miano broke the glass ceiling this year, becoming the first woman to head the State-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen).

Mrs Miano, whose qualifications include post-graduate degrees in law, has worked at KenGen in various capacities since 1998.

She was first appointed to the post of chief executive in an acting capacity in August before being confirmed by the board in November.

Prior to her appointment, she drove KenGen’s governance agenda. She was stepping into a post previously held by Albert Mugo who retired after attaining the retirement age of 60.

Limuru Tea and Kenya Orchards:

Appointments that raised corporate governance questions
Kenya Orchards issued a notice that it had appointed a new chief executive three weeks after the fact, brooking the ire of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA).

The company faced penalties for failing to notify the regulator that it had appointed Vipul Patel as its CEO within 24 hours.

In May, Limuru Tea announced that it had appointed Nicholaos Yiannakis to both the positions of chairman and managing director.

The appointment of Mr Yiannakis to both positions was not the best corporate governance practice.

The company later announced that it had picked Richard Cheruiyot arap Korir, a trained veterinarian, as its new chairman.

Mumias - Exit Errol Johnson, Enter Josephat Asira

Errol Johnson was yet another turnaround artist that left corporate Kenya in 2017. Appointed chief executive of the ailing sugar miller in 2015, Errol chose to leave the company when his two year term ended, though he was eligible for another term.

He is said to have become disillusioned after the company’s board disapproved of his performance. In June, Mumias appointed Josephat Asira as its acting chief executive. Mr Asira previously served at the chief factory operations officer.

He has the task of turning around Mumias, a daunting prospect given that net losses widened 42 per cent to Sh6.77 billion in the year to June 2017.

Nation Media Group- Exit Joe Muganda

Nation Media Group #ticker:NMG chief executive Joe Muganda is set to leave the media giant at the end of January after two-and-a-half years in the post.

Mr Muganda will join energy firm Vivo as its new managing director. He will be taking over from Polycarp Igathe, who quit the Vivo in May to pursue a political career and has since been elected deputy governor of Nairobi.

Bamburi- Exit Bruno Pescheux, Enter Eric Kironde

In September Bamburi announced that Bruno Pescheux had decided to call time on his tenure at the cement maker. 

Bamburi then appointed is chief finance officer, Mr Eric Kironde, to the post of CEO in an acting capacity. Bamburi is majority owned by French conglomerate Lafarge.

Mr Pescheux previously headed Lafarge Syria. Since his departure from Bamburi, he has been drawn into investigations in which French authorities allege that Lafarge, which became LafargeHolcim after a merger in 2015, may have paid terror groups in Syria to keep their factory open after the civil war broke out in 2011. 

EA Cables – Exit Peter Arina

Peter Arina became the second chief executive to resign from EA Cables in as many years. Mr Arina’s resignation in August came as the company marked falling sales, earnings and shareholder funds.

The cable manufacturers net loss widened 7.4 times to Sh232.4 million in the half-year to June. Paul Muigai, chief operating officer, was appointed as acting chief executive.

Stanbic- Exit Philip Odera, enter Charles Mudiwa

South Africa’s Standard Bank Group appointed Zimbabwean Charles Mudiwa, to head its Kenyan business. He took over from Philip Odera who had been assigned another role within the company ahead of his retirement.  Mr Mudiwa had previously headed Stanbic’s Zambian unit since 2013 after serving in a similar capacity in Malawi.

Standard Group- Sam Shollei

Sam Shollei resigned from his position as Group Chief Executive Officer at the Standard effective September 1.

Mr Shollei had been with the media company since 2012. The Standard Group said he was leaving to pursue other interests.