Martin Kadzere Senior Business Reporter
LOBELS chief executive Mr Ngoni Mazango has left the company after a fall out with the board due to a contractual disagreement over a 10 percent equity that he was supposed to receive for turning around the country’s second largest bakery, The Herald Business can reveal.
In an interview, Mr Mazango, who joined the company in 2004 and was appointed chief
executive in 2012, confirmed that he was no longer with the company following the equity dispute.
However, there is speculation that Mr Mazango fell out with the board after allegedly submitting a bid to acquire shareholding held by a consortium of local banks in Lobels’ through a company he is indirectly involved in.
The banks, which were heavily exposed to Lobels acquired the stake after injecting funds to revive it.
The banks were FBC, CBZ, NMB, Metbank and now defunct Capital.
The banks took a decision to take over the company and to inject capital after it had become apparent that they may fail to recover loans they had advanced to the company.
Altiwave, the banks’ investment vehicle is reported to have sold its stake to Takura Ventures.
Sources said the board felt Mr Mazango’s “secretive bid” for the company was compromised given that he had inside information on the bread manufacturer’s operations.
But Mr Mazango said contrary to speculation that he wanted to buy the company through back-door manoeuvres, it was the board that backtracked on its contractual promise to give him 10 percent shareholding if he turned around Lobels.
“People can speculate, but it is not true,” said Mr Mazango.
“There was an issue of equity. Part of my contract was that I was supposed to get a shareholding in the company after turning it around, but that position has changed. They are now saying that arrangement is not part of the business strategy. This is the correct position.”
No official comment could be obtained from Lobels board by the time of going to print.
In an interview with this newspaper in October last year, Mr Mazango said when he took over as the company’s chief executive, Lobels was producing 30 000 loaves per day at its Harare factory. But production had risen to 240 000 loaves per day.
In Bulawayo, the company is now operating at 100 percent capacity and is producing 100 000 loaves per day.
The company also managed to repay a substantial amount it owed the banks. Lobels was once a market leader in the baking industry but as hard time hit the firm, the bakery started losing its markets share to competitors such as Bakers Inn, a unit of Innscor Africa Ltd and Proton Bakeries.
The company started operations in the late 40’s under Lobels brothers until 2002 when a local consortium took over the business.
The consortium included seasoned banker Mr Livingstone Gwata, businessman Mr Herbert Nkala and Mr Fed Mtanda.
The company currently employees more than 1 500 workers at its factories in Harare and Bulawayo.