Ian Fernandes and Shirleen Samat Expected to Move from Nation to MediaMax in May

Ian Fernandes is expected to take up a new position as the new CEO of Mediamax Group replacing the non performing Paul Wanyangah who was previously with the Standard Group. Ian is the third CEO after Granton Samboja and Paul Wanyangah to take up the assignment and try take Mediamax to the mass market. Granton and Paul have both failed and Ian might never make the turnaround as he is more technical and extreme elitist to listen and speak to the mass market.

According to the latest market analytics by a local research firm, Royal Media’s Citizen TV command the market at 48%, K24 – 4%, KTN 13% and NTV 15%. K24’s rating briefly climbed to 10% in Nairobi and parts of Central province when Uhuru announced his candidature on a TNA ticket and SK Macharia announced that he was going to support Raila Odinga. Some Kikuyus in Central and Nairobi regions protested by moving to K24 but they are the minority. The 10% rating has since dropped back to its default level.

SK’s move was strategic as he won the followers of Raila Odinga to his side with now Citizen TV maintaining lead in most parts of Luo Nyanza as the channel of choice.

Ian is expected to leave in early May with some production crew but the impact might not be felt much by the group. Sources close to NMG CEO Linus Gitahi indicate that the CEO believe that Ian Fernandez’s move to Mediamax is a blessing in disguise as the Agha Khan owned group was already contemplating doing away with him. The source further revealed that most colleagues of Ian believe that he was a cog in NMG’s strategic and commercial wheels as he was weak in both. Shirleen Samat who has always moved with Ian Fernandez is expected to, again move to K24 with him as the head of production.

Ian is not expected to succeed in poaching many as those who were poached to Mediamax were fired within a short time. When Sam Shollei joined Standard Group, he also poached many from Royal Media Services and NMG offering them salaries which were twice those they were earning at their previous employment. Most of the poached staff were surprised when they were being ordered to take a pay cut or leave within a few months. Some like the consultants (Jenny Luesby) and editors brought from retirement (Bernard Nderitu) were sacked when Standard Group realised that the move had a grave impact on its balance sheet.

Mediamax is also seriously regretting poaching over 32 Royal Media staff members in 2012 as the move did not bring viewers to the stable. Most of the poached staff members were offered salaries which were sometimes more than 300% of what they were getting at RMS. News anchors were being paid up to Ksh 1.2 million per month in some instances. Belinda Obura and Tom Mboya lead in the pack of the millionaire anchors at K24.

When the poaching failed, they started to mirror Citizen TV programmes like Naswa, Papa Shirandula, Shamba Shape-Up and Kubamba. The cloning didn’t drive viewers to K24 and other Mediamax entities but just reflected badly on them with most viewers thinking that they are desperate clones.

The source at NMG also revealed that Linus Gitahi might not be leaving NMG as rumoured as he view KQ as a smaller company and the current jet upgrade happening at KQ might reflect on KQ’s balance sheet for the next 5 – 7 years. National carrier KQ is expected to feel the effect of the recent fleet upgrade in the few years. It has also lost ground to Ethiopian Airlines in lucrative routes in the continent.

Linus is a serious industrialist with products like Tropikal Air fresheners and Bolt insect killer from the Tropikal Brands (Africa) Ltd (yeah!!! It once won an award at the Kenya top 100 SMEs organised by NMG) being some of his creations.

The move to hire Ian Fernandez to replace Paul Wangangah might not drive viewers to K24 as Ian is more of a technical person and him being an elitist from the Asian community, he might just be the best hiring for K24 technical interests but worst in strategic and commercial moves. But maybe the President wants to raid Citizen TV transmitter stations which now stand at 38 way ahead of KTN’s 7 and NTV’s 8 countrywide. The concentration of Citizen TV transmitter station has always ensured that its reception remains the clearest countrywide. Citizen also invested hugely in acquiring mass market content like telenovelas, Naija movies and local productions like Papa Shirandula and Naswa.

Mediamax brands include The People newspaper, K24 TV and radio stations like Kameme Fm, Milele Fm,  Meru Fm and Mayan Fm.

The game of musical chairs in the Kenyan media is expected to move a notch higher as key managers are expected to quit to usher in new blood. Royal Media and NMG are expected to be affected most as Wachira Waruru of Royal Media is expanding his ranching and hospitality business. He owns a massive ranch around Mt Kenya and has interests in key hospitality facilities in the country. NMG’s Linus Gitahi is looking for a better offering from Agha Khan otherwise he might decide to concentrate in his business. He is one of the wealthiest managers around.

Written by Robert

Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @RobertAlai or Facebook page (

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