Four senior editors at Standard Media Group quit as its financial woes roll on

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Ted Mulanda, the editor credited for creating Kenya’s most acclaimed tabloid newspaper ‘The Nairobian’ which is famed for its extensive reporting on entertainment, celebrity gossip and its attention seeking headlines has quit the Standard Media Group.

The editor who has called the Mombasa Road based media company home has called it quits after more than a decade at the institution leading an exodus of four other senior journalists who have seemingly grown tired of working without pay.

Sources from Mombasa Road have told that Malanda who has been the corner stone of the Nairobian has already handed in his resignation letter and is serving notice. Also leaving is features editor and prolific columnist Clay Muganda, health editor Kamau Mutunga and veteran investigative journalist and political editor Amos Kareithi.

The exit of the four which comes amid a serious cash crunch at Kenya’s oldest media house will definitely push the company further in the red as it does not have the ability to hire any journalists at the moment and the ones it has are pushing to be retrenched.

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At the moment the company has been unable to pay its employees for the last three months due to cash flow problems. It has also been unable carry out restructuring exercise which would have seen it pay millions of shillings to staff members that will be laid off.

Worse, it owes its inhouse sacco ‘Standard Sacco’ at least Sh80 million in employee’s savings which it deducted from their pay slips but failed to remit leaving it so cash strapped that it cannot advance soft loans to its suffering members who are being forced to work without pay.

The last time employees at Kenya’s oldest media house were paid a full salary was September last year. The company had promised to clear all the arrears in December but only managed to pay 80 percent of the October salary.

Last week the media house bought itself some time after it promised the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) that it will pay its staff by January 23 in order to avert industrial action which would grind operations at the company to a halt.

Yet despite the promises made to KUJ on Monday, the company’s CEO Orlando Lyomu met senior leadership on Tuesday but opened the meeting by asking that no one should bring negativity.

“He was not willing to discuss employee grievances at a time they’ve not paid salaries for three months,” a source at the company has told us.

It is this demeanor by the CEO which hurt morale among the company’s management prompting the current resignations as editors can no longer assign reporters stories and cannot do anything if their juniors don’t report to work, yet Lyomu looks unconcerned.

It will however be interesting to see where the company will get the money to pay its staff on such a short notice as has promised KUJ as its bankers have declined to issue it with more over drafts due to the huge loans it has amassed over the last few years.

NCBA has refused the Mombasa road based media house money for the restructuring exercise since it has defaulted in paying back hundreds of millions that it took from the bank in order to build a converged newsroom in 2020.

This follows refusal by Gideon Moi and Joshua Kulei, the two main shareholders to guarantee that they will sink in additional capital to save the sinking behemoth that also owns KTN, Radio Maisha, Spice FM, Vybez Radio, KTN Burudani and KTN Farmers.

The Moi and Kulei families are said to have demanded results from the millions they have sunk into the company in the last few years to projects that have only sunk on further in the red.

The Standard has in the last few years been on a spending spree overseen by Lyomu launching Spice Fm, Vybes Radio, KTN Burudani, KTN News and even Farmers TV. This is not to mention the fact that it moved its journalists from Mombasa Road to I & M building in town and then back to Mombasa road at a huge cost.

This has put the company’s board at crossroads with members split in the middle on what to do. Some board members have said no more money will be spent until Lyomu cleans up his mess. Others say he should just go.

Specifically, Lyomu is accused of bulldozing the company to borrow at least Sh300 million for the convergence project dubbed ‘Project Eagle’ when its cash flow was already in the red.

The convergence project which began in 2018 involved a massive reorganization on the newsroom plus huge spending on infrastructure. Several desks at KTN News and the Standard Newspaper were collapsed into one by Editorial Director Ochieng Rapuro thrusting a number of editors into unfamiliar grounds. This led to a fall of some of the company’s flagship brands like KTN News which was put in the hands of newspaper editors.

A section of the management had at that time argued that it would have been wise to converge the newsroom in terms of human resource first and then put up the infrastructure once the company’s finances bettered.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, a good number of journalists have opted to look for opportunities elsewhere. This will definitely leave news editor Nzau Musau and the Managing Editor John Bundotich who are already overwhelmed with work struggling on how to fill content in the company’s newspapers beginning from next week.

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