By Damian Reilly
Arab Media Group CEO on why he has stepped down from his high profile role.
Why are you leaving?Everything comes to a time where you close one chapter and you open a new chapter.
What is the next chapter?The next chapter for me is going to be more interesting personally. The opportunity with AMG was amazing. It was something I will be grateful for for the rest of my life. At this age, becoming an expert at launching so many products, within a short period of time, today I can do anything from newspaper to radio station to printing press to distribution to ticketing to TV.
How old are you?I am 35, so you can imagine at this age, I know how to do all that from scratch. I believe I have enough knowledge that they gave me so I can start my own thing. Can you be more specific about what you are actually going to do?Roughly what I am going to be doing is I am going to start my own business, which is going to offer media consultancy, and this is soimething we don’t have much of in this region unfortunately. We do have certain companies that come from outside but they lack the understanding of the how cosmopolitan this place is, and how complex the structure and the society is. So being from this part of the world, and being exposed to the world and the West, and seeing where the media is going… I believe I could be a great help to the entire region rather than just focusing on my own company. Do you have any regrets?I believe I have done enough, I prepared great potential there, great people. I am talking about Mohammed Al Mulla who is going to take the leadership there now. What were your greatest achievements?Well I believe that doing all that in no time, for example talking about the newspapers, the first business paper, talking about Emarat Al Youm, talking about the revamp of Al Bayan, talking about the eight radio stations, I don’t want to give all the credit to myself… Who else should take the credit?I did it with the team, but without using any external consultants.
How long were you with AMG?I have been there since 2001, and I believe now I have completed nine years it is time to… It is not about making more money, it is about, I have done quite enough, and I saw my role was not as effective as it used to be. I am a person who just wants to keep going and building and doing more, and right now everything is established. You can’t say I got bored, you know, but you can always just sit and get your salary and do other things in life. But this is not me. I create new things everyday and new opportunities. It is just that you cannot be there forever, you have to always give chances (to your team). Look at the big companies of the world, the CEO’s always go on to do other things, and give the opportunity to someone else, or else I am going to be there till I am 60. And then no one will ever have the chance to be CEO.
So you left on your own terms?I am gone. This was on my own terms, with everyone’s approval, with everyone being happy. This is a company that I will grateful to for the rest of my life. What an amazing opportunity I had – at this age to have all the knowledge that anyone would be dreaming (of having). How is AMG positioned now, financially?AMG is doing great. All the products that AMG launched, I think they are for the next generation. And Emirates Business 24/7?I don’t have all the figures and numbers…. I am sure there are so many ways to monetise and make money. The team now, they have to find these ways. Today you have some online platforms which are successful and are making money. So today you have a piece of gold. This is the first business newspaper in the UAE. And what is this place is about? It is all about business. What are the advertising and readership figures like?The editorial team, they have to now step up and make sure that this newspaper will stand up. From my side, as someone in charge, we came and we created this product which the UAE needed, and I am sure there are some good people there…
How strong is it financially?At the end of the day it is a newspaper, you don’t value a newspaper by how much it makes and how much it loses. This is absolutely true. There are certain products within your media spectrum that you cannot just judge on its financial performance. What is it doing to the GDP? What is it doing in terms of sending messages, in terms of enlightening people, in terms of bringing new opportunities? Why do we read a newspaper? Because we want to have the knowledge that will allow us to go and do something. But are enough people reading it?It has readers. I am very confident that it has a lot of readers. It is just that the editorial team now, I am sure they are going to take it to a different phase, where it can appeal more to advertisers. As an idea, to have a business paper in this country and in this city, it should always be there. You cannot imagine for the number of business activities that are happening in the UAE not to have a business newspaper.
When did you actually resign?I resigned at the beginning of the year, and hopefully will let you know as soon as my business is established. I am just in the process of making things happen. How did your colleagues react?I was touched by the number of people of different nationalities, particularly the ones I started with from day one – who I enjoyed being there with as a family – who sent me messages saying: “boss we will go with you wherever you go.” It touches you. But as I said, Mohammed Al Mulla is there and I am sure he is going to do a better job.
I am an old AMG employee. AMG had provided me good platform to perform. I am really very grateful for Mr. Abudl Lateef al sayegh who have made AMG an outstanding company.