Syed Mokhtar vs Daim?
Jan 2/2020, KL: That's the first thing that came to mind when we heard of the departures of Rashid Yusof and Khaidir Majid from Jalan Riong. Rashid will be replaced by Lokman Mansor as group editor of New Straits Times while Saadon will replace Qydir at BH (Berita Harian) as the group editor. The news came just weeks after the NSTP, or Balai Berita to us, had announced the retrenchment of over 500 staff, including a two-time Kajai award winner.
Media Prima, which owns NSTP, is owned by Syed Mokhtar Albukhari, owner of a lot of other enterprises in this country, including DRB which owns the former national car Proton, Pos Malaysia, some telcos, power plants, a seaport and an airport.
Before Syed Mokhtar, the newspapers, directors and some editors at Jalan Riong (and Jalan Liku, where TV3 used to be before there was Media Prima) were properties of Daim Zainuddin, the two-times Finance Minister and owner of a lot of enterprises in this country and abroad.
Both Syed Mokhtar and Daim are powerful men, needless to say, Both are close to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister, and used to be not so fond of each other. Once, at the mention of Syed Mokhtar's name, Tun Daim remarked, "Ah, the man who could do no wrong." Daim and Mahathir were not enjoying the best of ties at the time.
Fairly or otherwise, Rashid is seen as a Daim's man. He used to work as the man's press secretary. Qydir, in turn, fairly or otherwise, is seen as close to Rashid. Easily over half a century of journalism between the two of them, mainly in politics and financial reporting. Qydir was my colleague at Business Times in the 90s and Rashid and I were both London correspondents for NST, but a few years apart.
Their departure means it's back to square one for the ailing newspaper group. It also means Syed Mokhtar (or Johari Ghani, whom many say is the man acting on behalf of Syed Mokhtar) now has a clear path to do whatever it takes to consolidate the new media empire, which include Utusan Malaysia and The Malaysian Reserve.