SPECULATION is rife that Jewel Bank chief executive officer and Financial Gazette proprietor Gideon Gono plans to buy a stake in the Daily Mirror and eventually squeeze
Ibbo Mandaza out of the newspaper.
Sources said meetings were currently going on and Mandaza could be forced to relinquish his shareholding in the stalled Daily Mirror if the current plans by funding groups succeed.
Gono is believed to have agreed to fund the paper on condition that Mandaza cedes a majority shareholding to him and unnamed investors. Unconfirmed reports linked a Kingdom Bank executive and the National Social Security Authority to the deal.
Mandaza suspended publication of the newspaper in April after accumulating what insiders said was an “insurmountable” debt with printers and banks.
Yesterday Gono confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that his bank was involved in the restructuring of the Southern African Printing and Publishing House (Sappho), publishers of the Mirror, saying they were only doing “advisory work”.
“We are the bankers of Sappho,” said Gono. “I know my guys are working with Sappho in restructuring but it’s just some advisory work. We even have some documents to that effect.”
Asked to comment on his alleged interests in the company, he said: “Oh! No, who is saying this? It’s totally false. What are people doing trying to mislead you my brother?”
Gono is believed to be interested in a 70% stake in the Daily Mirror which is expected back on the streets in September after a five-month break due to financial constraints.
Mandaza, who is the single shareholder in the paper, is expected to remain with a paltry 15% shareholding when the paper bounces back but will cling on to Sappho and the Sunday Mirror.
Sappho spokesperson Viola Mu-sariri yesterday said the daily paper would be back in September but denied claims of restructuring.
“There is no restructuring and no one has bought us. We are simply working among ourselves to bring back that paper into circulation,” she said.
Media watchers said Gono’s move was part of a wider plan to buy shareholding in various independent publications to tilt the media playing field in favour of the establishment.
Only in December last year, Gono took the media field by storm when he bought the Financial Gazette after its new owners Octodew failed to raise funding on time.
Following the take-over, watchers linked Gono to a wider plan of independent publications with a view to enhancing his influence in the country and shape public opinion.
Thompson Publications, publishers of Parade magazine, are also said to be in Gono’s plans as is Mighty Movies, a major production house recently bought by African Business Communications managing director, Supa Mandiwanzira.