About Kevin

In this edition of ‘The GC Index People Leader Series’ Shann Janse van Rensburg talks to Kevin Ferguson founder and CEO of Highbury Media, and CEO of Ramsay Media, about his career success to date and how operating in the game changer playmaker space has underpinned that success.

Kevin leads 300 staff, and 40 world-class brands, that are South African content leaders.
His two decade-long commitment to South Africa’s media industry began in 1996, when he moved the offices of UK-based publishing house, Monarch Communications, from Sandton to Cape Town. He reimagined the small company into Highbury Media, a market leader over the next decade, by successfully shifting it, to become a significant custom content creator of choice for several brands and companies such as The Foschini Group, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Diner’s Club International and many others.

His entrepreneurial spirit has earned him a reputation for taking measured risks and building strong business models. He joined the company’s board of directors in 2005, and saw the next evolution of the industry coming, and began working to develop teams, platforms and practises to address digital growth, well in advance of the South African market norm. During his tenure, he has successfully led the acquisition of several top titles and brands in order to build the portfolio, including CapeTownEtc and Compleat Golfer and most recently (2017), the titles of Ramsay Media (CAR, Getaway, Leisure Wheels, Popular Mechanics).

“I don’t consider what I do a job. Success to me is celebrating other people’s success. I draw inspiration from the talent that is everywhere in our organization.”

Kevin, you recently completed the GC Index and your profile suggests a high Game Changer, Playmaker proclivity. You have had an interesting and successful career, what does your GC Index profile tell us about what underpins your success?

Media has been a changing landscape and come under many challenges over the last 10 years, so I have had to adapt and look at innovations that have come from overseas. SA is about 3-5 years behind the time from an American point of view, a little less from a European point of view, so I’ve had the benefit of seeing what has taken place in these regions  and been able to look at what is working there and adapt it to what will work here. I’ve had to be a Game Changer in terms of the difficulties the media landscape has gone through in the last 10 years, you either become one or you die!

Also, when I have an idea I feel strongly about, I push to make it happen.

When in your career have you felt that your role was most ‘in tune’ with your proclivities?

We have made 4 or 5 acquisitions over the last 10 years and it’s during those times when I really find myself the happiest and I gravitate towards those Playmaker and Game Changer  proclivities. When I can go in and change a business. We traditionally buy distressed businesses. We have to go in and galvanise and change the culture of those organisations and get the best out of people and strategize about where the business is going to. That is my real happy place, which suits my proclivities well.

When in your career have you felt that your role was least ‘in tune’ with your proclivities?

Any time anyone asks me to implement stuff. I’m not an implementer, I like to strategize and surround myself with really good people and better people than me in their fields so I don’t have to do the things I’m not as good at or don’t enjoy.

What skills have you had to develop along the way to make the most of your proclivities?

I think the biggest skill I have had to develop is being able to have  difficult conversations with people, because that was never my nature. I’m someone that shies away from conflict. I am a pretty easy going person who likes everyone to get along. So, I have had to develop strong Playmaker skills, but also have difficult conversations with people when it is called for.


If I look at any business, any of the acquisitions we have made or any business that we’ve gone into and looked at turning around, probably the biggest skill set missing and the downfall of many organisations is when everybody avoids having difficult conversations, there are sideways promotions and nobody really wants to offend anybody. That’s the biggest skillset I have had to learn, to be able to take that head on and have difficult conversations which are very uncomfortable for me and for other people.

Have there been people who stand out that have complimented your proclivities along the way? Who do you like to surround yourself with in order to help you succeed?

I have surrounded myself with people who are better than me in their areas, by a country mile, but I understand them and work well with them and don’t  micromanage. I let them do what they do best and never take praise for it and always give praise. I have a few strong implementers in my team who get things done and make things happen.

People generally make the mistake of thinking that everybody needs to be treated, rewarded, incentivised and motivated in the same way and that’s not true. My experience has been that everybody needs to be treated differently, incentivised differently, complimented differently; you need to have different interactions with different people and you need to figure out what is needed for each of those people to get the best out of them. –  I’m reasonably good at that.

Finally Kevin, in terms of your Game Changer proclivities, what’s next?

Looking at how everyone else is adapting, looking at the brands and products that we have and seeing how they are going to fit into the new world. We’ve been a predominantly print based business for the first 15 years of our existence and over the last 10 years we have had to adapt and gone through multiple changes, developed multiple platforms for delivery of content, become specialists in videography, podcasts and websites, as well as understanding where social media is playing and how it all can benefit and work within our ecosystem.


Covid-19 has been an absolute disaster for a lot of businesses and has taken its toll on ours as well along with many media businesses in South Africa, but I think we’ve been early adaptors to 360 degree platforms at an early stage and we didn’t rush into anything. We are pretty pragmatic at looking at this company and not leaping into something, we’re pretty conservative in letting other people with more money and more experience and better people than us set the trends and then we just look to adapt them to how it fits into our business. So I think that’ll be our ongoing strategy.