Former Uchumi Supermarkets Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Ciano was once considered the master of corporate turnarounds in Kenya. However, the former retailer boss did not know when to quit.
Over the course of his career, Ciano has a number of remarkable achievements under his belt. He was part of the team that facilitated the turnabouts of Kenya Petroleum Refinery Limited (KPRL) and Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC).
According to his LinkedIn profile, the former Uchumi boss is the CEO and Director at Redberry Management Consultants, a company he founded in 1990.
In this article, WoK takes a look at Miano’s stint at Uchumi, from turning its fortunes around to burying the once regional giant retailer.
Miano founded Redberry Management Consultants in 1990 and served as its CEO and Director. In 1995, he was appointed the Financial/procurement and HR Chief Manager at the Kenya Petroleum Refineries. He was key in turning the agency’s fortunes around.
In 1999, he was appointed Finance & Strategy Director at Kenya shell/BP Kenya LTD, a role he held for two years prior to his promotion to Regional Contracting and Procurement Advisor-shell EA Region in 2001.
Miano remained in Shell till 2002 when he was appointed Finance/Procurement Chief Manager at KPLC. Here, he was part of the team that saw the power supplier’s fortunes turn for the better. In 2004, he was promoted to the role of Restructuring Chief Manager at Kenya Power.
In 2006, he was appointed CEO and Managing Director at Uchumi Supermarket group.
Following his sacking in 2015, Miano returned to his company Redberry Mgt Consultants Ltd in 2016 as its CEO and Managing director.
In 2006, Uchumi Supermarkets shut down for 45 days. At the time, there was completely no hope for the company and its investors had begun counting their losses. However, the brand was relaunched on July 15, the same year, and under the stewardship of Ciano, the retailer turned around from receivership back to the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) listing.
In 2007, Uchumi partnered with Safaricom M-Pesa to incorporate mobile money payments and the alliance bore fruit. By 2011, the company had raked in a turnover of Ksh11 billion. From a dying brand, Uchumi had risen from the ashes to claim its seat at the top of the retail industry.
“The key to a successful turnabout is people, focus and dedication. What was needed at Uchumi just like KPRL and KPLC among other things was attention to transformational variables of strategy, leadership and cultural change.
“Additionally, it is very important to forge healthy relationships with staff, suppliers and customers while avoiding conflict of interest as these are part and parcel of transactional variables. While internal transactions in an organization should be right, the management should never afford to ignore the environment of the organization,” Ciano said during a past interview.
During this time, Uchumi was mainly known for their fresh supplies of vegetables compared to other consumer goods. This constituted a major share of the company’s profits. The company had turned its focus to expansion and also increasing its market value by 2014. At the time, it had branches in Kenya and Uganda; part of their expansion plans included venturing into Tanzania and South Sudan.
Jonathan Ciano was fired from Uchumi on June 15, 2015. After pulling the company out of the gutter, the former CEO was back to where it all began.
The former Uchumi boss in an interview after his sacking stated that he had known his termination was imminent immediately Jamii Bora Bank became the largest shareholder in Uchumi and got a seat at the board.
“I have been informed of the same and I’m comfortable with the decision that has been reached. As you may be aware new shareholders came into the board and they have the right to make realignments that are in line with their market and growth expectations,” Ciano said at the time.
Jonathan Ciano was sacked alongside Former Uchumi Supermarket finance officer, Chadwick Okumu and the Human Resources Manager, Michael Kibe.
During the announcement, Uchumi supermarket’s board chairperson, Khadija Mire, said the three were dismissed over claims of gross misconduct and negligence. Ciano was also accused of cooking the books and conflict of interest.
On Wife Being The Biggest Supplier Of Fresh Vegetables
Ciano’s wife came under the radar when audit firm KPMG’s Factual Findings Report pointed out that she was one of the retailer’s biggest fresh produce supplier. Apart from the conflict of interest, the wife of the ex-CEO over-invoiced Uchumi. According to the damning report by the audit firm, Ciano’s wife was a director of Eliehon-the company that supplied the fresh produce.
In August 2016, then State House spokesman, Manoah Esipisu announced that there was enough evidence to prosecute the three for mismanaging Uchumi leading to its downfall.
Esipisu said that a forensic audit carried out on Uchumi had provided enough evidence to nail those who mismanaged the retailer chain.
“One way to do that is to ensure that there are consequences for past misuse. That’s why I want to be clear today: there has already been a forensic audit of Uchumi. The Cabinet Secretary’s understanding is that enough evidence has been gathered to press charges against persons who may have mismanaged its cash and assets. Ladies and gentlemen, there will be accountability,” said Esipisu at the time.