A bitter management war has erupted at blue chip mobile phone service provider Safaricom Company just days after Peter Ndegwa assumed office as the new chief executive officer. According to sources, the senior management is deeply divided referring to the CEO as an outsider. Many of them had expected an insider who understands the firm operations to have succeeded the late Bob Collymore. In fact it is said that Safaricom under late Bob Collymore had embarked on grooming an insider and a Kenyan to take over as CEO. It was on this ground that in 2018, a major shuffle of senior management posts was done with new executive roles created. Sylvia Mulinge landed to lucrative chief customer officer job. The office had a huge task and duties, among them consumer business, sales operations, customer service, brand marketing and experience, digital and market development.
As part of the then succession matrix, Steve Okeyo, then Safaricom director, regional sales and operations was unceremoniously forced to resign. It is said that Okeyo was a sharp brain and was seen as those locals likely to be CEO. Apart from the succession wars, Okeyo was also hounded out of office basing because of tribalism. Word has it that Safaricom directors have no time for Luos. It is said when Collymore died, many expected Joseph Ogutu, a Luo, to be appointed the acting CEO.
To the surprise of many, former CEO Michael Joseph was appointed to act. Ogutu was even among those mentioned to succeed Collymore. He is currently director, strategy and innovation. He was poached from Telkom Kenya while working as principal assistant to the MD and chief strategy and regulatory officer. His current duties at Safaricom are briefing the CEO on the formulation of strategic direction of the business and carry the task to maintain Safaricom position as mobile industry leader.
His experience in telecommunication industry placed him a head of those insiders to succeed Collymore. How an outsider in the name of Ndegwa with no experience in telecommunication field landed the plum slot to earn more salary than those managers who have seen the company grow is causing friction. Our source revealed that the managers were just waiting for Ndegwa to take over the mandate and engage into silent wars.
For starters, Safaricom late Collymore annual basic salary was Sh94.32 million in 2018. A bonus of Sh32.42 million, non-cash benefits worth Sh35.64 million and a stake in the firm worth Sh34 million. Sateesh Kamath, chief financial officer took home Sh96.6 million in 2018. Which included Sh52.79 million basic salary. Nicholas Ng’ang’a, the chairman and the force behind Ndegwa recruitment was paid Sh6.4 million that year in directors fee with Michael Joseph being paid Sh2.93 million.
In fact it is said that the late Collymore had a soft spot on Mulinge and wanted her to be the first woman Safaricom CEO. His then argument was, the Kenya government was not willing to have a foreigner at the helm after his tenure. It is said that Ndegwa appointment was due to government pressure as Vodafone wanted a foreigner in charge to avoid management wars at the helm.To groom Mulinge, Collymore appointed her Vodacom Tanzania CEO. That was in April 2018.
However, Mulinge did not take the post as Tanzania authorities denied her work permit. But come November the same 2018 after failing the Tanzania job, Mulinge got the powerful post in Safaricom executives shake up. It is the powerful position she holds now. When Collymore died, many also expected Mulinge to act just as Ogutu. Instead, Michael Joseph was appointed interim CEO.
As things are now, Ndegwa is a lone ranger at Safaricom. His only buddy being Nicholas Mulila, the chief cooperate security officer. Mulila has no ambitions of being CEO hence decision to work closely with Ndegwa. Mulila is out to protect Carolyne Luchiri the wife who works at human resource as senior manager. Mulinge sources say, is a bitter woman crying in silence as she was ahead of those to succeed Collymore. Stephen Chege is chief cooperate affairs officer and by virtue of being a Kikuyu, celebrated Ndegwa’s appointment.
Chege is one of those scheming to surround Ndegwa and influence decisions as Mulinge did during the tenures of Collymore and Joseph. Chief finance officer Sateesh Kamath has been comfortable with a foreigner being in charge. When Collymore was on sick leave for months, Kamath acted in the position.
When Ndegwa was appointed, Kamath was overheard dismissing the move arguing Telcom Industry was different from a brewery one. Ndegwa initially worked in the brewing industry. Paul Kasimu is the chief human resource with Rita Okuthe chief enterprise business office. Okuthe prayer was to have Ogutu named CEO. Sitoys Lopokoiyit is chief finance services officer and is leaning towards Mulinge camp. Surprisingly, no woman in top management wanted Mulinge CEO among them, Debra Mallowah, chief business development officer. Within the board, it is said Joseph wanted a foreigner in charge and wanted a top official at Vodacom based in South America moved to Nairobi head office.
That is why he worked his way to act as interim CEO to influence the appointment. But behind the scenes, the State was pushing for a local to take over with Esther Koimett PS pushing the move. Other directors on board are Bitange Ndemo, Linda Muriuki, Rose Ogega, Till Streichert and Mohammed Shameel Joasub. One of the board of directors recently left. Streichart resigned as Vodacom chief financial officer. He served as non a executive director Vodafone Tanzania, Vodafone Kenya and Safaricom. With Ndegwa factor having divided the board of directors and management, industry players are keenly following events at the country’s richest company.
By Weekly Citizen.