Newswatch In New Hands
Jimoh Ibrahim takes over Newswatch Communications Limited as core investor and its executive chairman
The board of directors of Newswatch Communications Limited last Thursday, May 5, 2011, took a major step that would enable it reposition the magazine and take it to the next level. It approved the acquisition of 51 percent shares of the company by Global Media Mirror Limited, publishers of National Mirror, owned by Jimoh Ibrahim.
At the completion board meeting held at Newswatch premises last Thursday, Ibrahim, the core investor, assumed the executive chairmanship of Newswatch Communications Limited. He replaced Alex Akinyele, the erstwhile chairman of the board. The new board includes five members of the dissolved board. They are Akinyele, Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Mohammed, Dan Agbese, and Soji Akinrinade. The new members are Modupe Ibrahim, Yetunde Adedoyin, Jegede Emmanuel, Bishop Steven Ogedengbe, Ime Utong, Amos Akingba, and Alex Akinnadeju.
The new executive chairman has, however, appointed the four outgoing executive directors as group directors in various capacities. Ekpu will be in charge of training, research and development, Mohammed for corporate planning and strategy, Agbese for books and staff training while Akinrinade, the erstwhile editor-in-chief, takes charge of editorial content.
The board also approved the appointment of Ime Utong as Chief Restructuring Officer, CRO. Until his appointment, he was of Global Fleet Oil and Gas Limited. In the same development, the executive chairman approved the appointment of Bankole Makinde as general manager (operations) and Bala Dan Abu, general manager (editorial). They were appointed from within the Newswatch staff.
Akinyele, who formally handed over to Ibrahim as the new executive chairman last Thursday, said he was happy to hand over the baton to “a young and aggressive businessman who has what it takes to move Newswatch to the next level. According to him, the board decided to bring in Ibrahim because he has the knowledge and the expertise to turn Newswatch around and make it remain a pace-setter in the industry. He commended the staff of Newswatch for their resilience and steadfastness. He urged them to co-operate with new executive chairman to enable him actualise his vision for the company.
The new executive chairman spoke of his plan to turn around the company and ensure the magazine continues with its knack for robust journalism practice. He explained that what he intends to do is to inject funds into the company and turn it around. He described Newswatch as a magazine founded by thoroughbred professionals of integrity which has made the brand name very strong. He promised to give the journalists the freedom to practice their profession unhindered and remain committed to journalistic excellence which brought fame to its founders. He explained that it was based on this fact that he appointed Dan Abu, erstwhile executive editor of Newswatch, as general manager in charge of editorial.
Ekpu, erstwhile chief executive of the company, said that it was heart-warming that Newswatch now has the kind of investment and expertise in the financial management that it requires to take it to the next level. “We are going to be part of conglomerate that has six printing presses in various parts of the country. This means that we will print Newswatch in time and get to our readers in time. The magazine will be better, it will be cleaner, and it will be richer. It also means that in the next few months, we will be publishing Newswatch newspapers,” he said.
He explained that the directors decided to retire after putting in 26 years service in the company so as to enable the younger ones to continue from where they left off. “We thought we could just go home and rest and leave the younger people to run the company. But the core investor said that he needs to utilise our expertise, and experience and contact. So, he has offered us appointment as group executive directors. We will be operating from the group’s office in Lagos Island. He has also appointed two of our staff - Bala Dan Abu as general manager, editorial, and Bankole Makinde as general manager, operations. I think it is wise of the investor because I think he knows he needs input from people who are here in order to move forward,” Ekpu said.
Mohammed, immediate past deputy chief executive of Newswatch, said the directors were pleased with the coming in of a core investor like Ibrahim. He was emphatic that based on his antecedents, Ibrahim would recapitalise the company and use his business acumen to actualise the dream of the founders of the company which is that it would outlive them as is the case with Time magazine in the United States.
He recalled that when Newswatch was established 26 years ago, its founders were lucky to have some people who put in money to enable it take off. He, however, explained that although the initial capital with which they started the company was not enough, they have been able to weather the storm over the years through dint of hard work, perseverance and good luck. “We are very happy and proud of what we have achieved in the past 26 years. But in order to take Newswatch to the next level, we decided to look for a core investor who will substantially invest in the company and ensure that Newswatch grows from strength to strength, move forward, and not stagnate,” Mohammed said. He is confident that Ibrahim who has the knack for turning companies around will definitely add value to the company. “We are proud to be associated with a publisher and businessman like Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim. And he is proud to be associated with us. I think that is why the chemistry is right,” Mohammed said.
Similarly, Agbese, immediate past Managing Director of Newswatch Books Limited, believes that the latest development portends a great future for the company. “You know the company has been struggling to keep its head above water all these years. And its main problem is finance. Since the incorporation of the company, we have never had a great injection of fund into the company. So, it means this would change and this new development will take the company to the next level as it enters into the next 25 years period. So, it is a welcome development that will enable the magazine to get back to the shape of what it was before,” he said.
According to him, the synergy between Newswatch and Global Media Mirror which is a conglomerate that has interest in oil and gas, aviation, insurance, and the media is a very good development for the company.
Agbese believes that with the new development, Newswatch would be transiting from its current status as a good magazine to a great magazine. “We set up this company not merely to publish a magazine but to create an institution in the media industry. We had said during our 25th anniversary that we don’t believe that we have achieved that optimum in our mission which is to produce a great magazine. So, after publishing for 25 years plus, I am confident that with the injection of fund into the company, new generations that will take it to a higher level have emerged.”
He is pleased that an investor finds it worth his while to invest in the company at this time. “It means that the investor believes in the future of the company and the magazine. It also means that the investor believes in the robust kind of journalism that this magazine stands for in the past 26 years. It also means that the investor respects the integrity of the magazine,” Agbese said. He believes that the future is really bright for the company and that this is the time to take Newswatch to the level its founder had always wanted it to be as well as maintaining its position as a responsible medium of communication.
For Akinrinade, immediate past editor-in-chief of Newswatch, the latest development was borne out of the desire of the directors to ensure the company continues to be vibrant and relevant. According to him, the turn of events will keep the dream of the founders of the magazine alive as it is a leeway towards transforming it into an institution. “We will not only be producing the magazine but also diversifying so that it will no longer be a mono-product company. That is the basic thing we had always wanted to achieve. The core investor will now turn the place around and make it a profitable concern,” Akinrinade said.
He is confident that with what would be put in place in the next few months, “Newswatch will create a legacy of excellence, a legacy of continuity, and a legacy of more robust journalism.” Akinrinade was elated that the latest development is the biggest step the directors have taken towards the fulfillment of not only making Newswatch an institution but expanding its frontiers and ensuring that it lives in perpetuity.
Incidentally, Ibrahim, the new executive chairman, has carved a niche for himself as an entrepreneur who has the Midas torch to turn companies around and make them profitable. The youthful lawyer and Harvard - trained tax consultant has turned around the fortunes of ailing or distressed companies ranging from airlines, insurance, hotels, downstream sector of the oil and gas industry, real estate and the media.
Some of the ailing companies he had acquired and turned around are NICON Insurance, Assurance Acquisition Limited, AAL, Virgin Nigeria which he renamed Air Nigeria, and National Mirror newspapers. Today, his acquisition spree has transformed the single company into a giant conglomerate.
The Ondo - born entrepreneur is also expanding his business interest outside the Nigerian shores.
His rise into the club of business icons in Nigeria is meteoric. Ibrahim had a humble beginning. He was born on February 24, 1967 to the family of Yakubu and Omofemiwa Jimoh in Igbotako, Okitipupa, Ondo State.
He had his early education at Community Grammar School, Igbotako, and from there to Federal School of Arts and Science, Ondo. He later studied law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in Osun State. He graduated in 1991 with LL.B. He also holds a masters degree in public administration from the same university. He later proceeded to the United States where he earned a combined masters degree in Law and Tax Administration from the prestigious Harvard University, Massachusetts. He was later called to the Nigerian Bar as Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
He then worked as a consultant to the International Monetary Fund, IMF, on tax reforms in Croatia and Estonia. He was also part of the Harvard team that went to Bangladesh to enlighten them on tax reforms.
With seven lawyers in his Law and Justice Chambers, he practiced law for six years, appearing in various courts from the magistrate to the Supreme Court. He later left legal practice and ventured into business. Today, he bestrides the Nigerian business landscape like a colossus and with his emergence as the new executive chairman of Newswatch, he has further consolidated his forays into the media industry. Newswatch from which he has now acquired controlling shares was founded 26 years ago by four celebrated Nigerian journalists – Dele Giwa, pioneer editor-in-chief, Ekpu, Mohammed, and Agbese.
The journey of Newswatch in its 26 years of existence has been quite challenging. It has occasionally been bumpy, sometimes hazardous, and at other times fulfilling. Indeed, it has been 26 years of trials and triumphs. On October 19, 1986, Giwa was killed through a parcel bomb. Despite the challenges the journalists who worked with Newswatch had faced in the past 26 years which was compounded by the economic difficulties in the country, its directors persevered and survived the storms. The magazine has equally won several awards nationally and internationally. With the events of last Thursday, the company which blazed the trail in weekly newsmagazine in Nigeria has entered a new phase in its drive towards “reaching for excellence, originality and commitment to reasoned courage.”
Reported by Dike Onwuamaeze