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Thakrar now exits firm he founded

BUSINESS NEWS
By Dominic Omondi | March 25th 2021
Bharat Thakrar. [Courtesy]

Bharat Thakrar’s four-decade stay at the pinnacle of marketing service firm WPP-Scangroup came to an end a month after he was suspended for “gross misconduct.”

Yesterday, Scangroup’s board announced that Thakrar had severed links with the company he helped found in 1982. This is after he tendered his resignation as the chief executive officer and board member of the listed company.

This paved the way for the company to search for his replacement, in what is likely to stain a sparkling image that Thakrar had built over the years as an advertising stalwart. In a notice to the Capital Markets Authority, the board noted that Thakrar had also resigned as the director of the company’s subsidiaries and affiliates.

The company’s former Chief Finance Officer Satyabrata Das, who had been suspended with Thakrar, also resigned. “The investigation into the allegations of gross misconduct and possible offenses against the two executives will continue,” said the board in a statement.

By end of trading yesterday, Scangroup’s shares at the Nairobi Securities Exchange were trading at Sh5.5, having fallen by 2.48 percent.

The Chief Operating Officer Alec Graham will act as the chief executive. The resignation ends a chequered career of Thakrar who has been at the pinnacle of the listing company since founding it in 1982.

In addition to “gross misconduct”, the two senior managers are also being probed for “possible offenses in their capacity as senior executives and employees of the company.” It was not immediately clear what constituted “gross misconduct.”

“Further announcements concerning this matter will be made when appropriate. For the time being, therefore, shareholders and investors are advised to exercise caution when dealing in the company’s securities,” said WPP-Scangroup in a statement on February 19. It was a decision that rattled the apex team of a listed company with some observers claiming it was almost unprecedented. Thakrar’s name is synonymous with advertising in Kenya having started the company as a one-man agency in 1982.

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In several interviews, Thakrar talked of how he honed his skills in advertising from his father who was a commercial director at the Skyline Advertising Agency, the largest advertising agency in Kenya at the time.

“I remember accompanying him to work where he would put me in an empty office to study in preparation for my Certificate for Primary Education (CPE) examinations,” said Thakrar in an earlier interview with The Standard.

The firm grew big and was listed at the NSE in 2006.

Six years later, Thakrar ceded a controlling stake at Scangroup to WPP Group, a British advertising firm, with the company changing its name to WPP-Scangroup.

It has a physical presence in 25 African countries. WPP has a 52 per cent stake in the issued share capital of Scangroup through its subsidiaries Cavendish Square Holding BV and Russell Square Holding.

In his 40-year career, Thakrara has overseen several advertising campaigns.

In 2012 he was awarded the Forbes Africa Advertising Leader of the Year. Thakrar and his wife Sadhna Bharat are the individuals with the largest shareholding at Scangroup with a stake of 10.48 percent, according to CMA's latest filings.

Using yesterday’s share price of Sh5.5, their wealth is valued at Sh248.3 million.

In 2019, Thakrar earned Sh88.57 million in salaries, allowances, and other benefits which translates into a monthly income of Sh7.4 million.

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