Dirk Hartford, founding CEO of the successful Gauteng regional radio station Yfm, has resigned.

Hartford confirmed his resignation this week, but dispelled industry speculation that the company’s majority shareholders, Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI), had been responsible for “pushing him out”.

“When Yfm was formed, I thought I would be out of here in three years, but I am still here. I was always going to leave eventually though.

“I turn 49 this year. There is no truth to these allegations (about being pushed out). I have heard these rumours myself.

“The reality is that I am totally attached to Yfm. I am still a minority shareholder and sit on the board,” he said.

At the end of May, Hartford will leave Yfm’s day-to-day operations and assume the position of Director of Special Projects for Yired (Pty) Ltd. (the holding company that controls Yfm, Ymag and the website Yworld. co.za).

“The position will entail setting up various ventures that we have not had opportunities to pursue in the past and will involve a lot of travelling. I am quite excited about the prospects,” said Hartford, who added that he was relishing the change from the fast paced nature of broadcasting.

Hartford’s resignation comes just over a month after maverick station director at e.tv, Quraysh Patel, joined the Yfm board of directors.

Last year, Khalique Sharrif also from e.tv, was placed on the board by HCI, the company that controls e.tv.
Industry observers have viewed the two board appointments as a sign of HCI taking more control of its investment.

It has also been suggested that these appointments have not sat well with Hartford, hence the resignation.
Hartford, however, has denied this.

Yfm began broadcasting in 1997 and within a few months established itself as the voice of Gauteng’s youth. In recent years, the station has repositioned itself as a “young adult” medium and has a listenership in excess of 1.8 million.

In the past three years, Yired (Pty) Ltd thrived under Hartford’s leadership.

The company has attained record sales figures and garnered numerous publishing awards for Ymag and, more recently, the Broadcast Marketing Award at the Financial Mail’s annual AdReview awards for Yfm.

With Hartford’s departure, there are bound to be jitters about the future of the station, but Hartford pointed out that the station could hardly be called rudderless.

“(Station manager) Greg Maloka will be running the station and will be ably assisted by Kim (Thipe, marketing director) and the rest of the senior management team.

“I have realised I am dispensable, which is a good thing. It allows for other people within the company to shine,” he said.

HCI boss Marcel Golding last night confirmed that Hartford “has voluntarily moved to be director of strategic projects within the company”.

Golding dismissed rumours that there was “bad blood” between HCI and Hartford, saying that Hartfod carried their full support and confidence.

Source: Saturday Star – Siphiwe Mpye and Lumka Oliphant