Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Mmegi protagonists score a temporary respite against Jamali’s nominees

A decision by businessman Sayed Jamali to take over Mmegi Group of newspapers hit a snag during the week when it was resolved that the process that saw him release over P5 million had been fraught with irregularities and that it had to be called off.

The Board put the spanner into the works when it was resolved that the original transactions had too many irregularities that opened it to be challenged in court.

Legal advice had also opined against going ahead with the sale under the same conditions.

Under the new terms the purchase of shares has been opened up to allow Mmegi Publishing Trust members who may not necessarily be shareholders to buy a stake if they so wish.
There are about fourteen such members.

According to a lawyer close to Jamali the businessman had released just over P5.2 million of his money and was able to appoint two board members inside the company as his personal nominees.

It was only when the other members got worried at how possibly Jamali’s two nominees could have raised over P5 million that difficult questions surfaced and there was put in place a motion towards halting the transaction.

Albeit in a different incarnation, Mmegi was started by Patrick Van Rensburg in Serowe in the early 1980s.

While the Group has grown over the years to become one of the country’s leading democracy institutions, the shareholder structure has always provided difficulties when it comes to running the business as a modern day commercial news outlet.

The complex shareholder structure was resourceful in the 1980s and 1990s when competition and with it profitability were not among the promoter’s top priorities.

Those pushing Jamali’s line are arguing that its time the company is unshackled from the cumbersome structure that has created a behemoth that is difficult to manage efficiently in modern times.

But the arrival into the scene of Jamali’s money has not been without its own share of problems.
While strenuously denied by the nominees, a lawyer involved in the deal confirmed that the P5.233 million was “definitively” Jamali’s money.

“I am disappointed at the denial by the two gentlemen that this is Jamali’s money. These are the people who I grew up respecting. How are they going to face the nation when they ultimately have to make share transfer to Jamali as they have to in the wellness of time?” asked the lawyer.

In the meantime Jamali has deliberately remained in the shadows, neither denying nor confirming that the money that is causing a maelstrom inside Mmegi has boardroom originated from him.

The same lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity said Jamali was currently on an “empire building crusade.”

“He is buying everything on which he can set his hands. I am personally worried that given Mmegi’s place in the country’s political economy some of its leadership should be at the forefront of disempowering Batswana on this once off sale, the true intentions of which they too are not yet well aware of,” he said.

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