Lenovo Canada puts ex-Ingram Micro GM in top spot

Lenovo on Monday said it has replaced the president of its Canadian arm less than a year after IBM’s historic sale of its PC business with the former general manager of one of its key distribution partners.

Spokespeople for Lenovo Canada confirmed that Heather Ross, who led IBM Canada’s PC division prior to the deal, left to pursue an opportunity with a bank. The position will be filled by Murray Wright, who was dismissed from his role as Ingram Micro’s Canadian GM earlier this year. The distributor’s purge also saw the dismissal of marketing manager Dave Walsh.

The US$1.2-billion Big Blue/Lenovo deal was first announced in December 2004 and was completed in June. IBM retained an 18.9 per cent stake in the company and characterized the deal more as a partnership than an outright sale. Lenovo, a PC powerhouse in Asia, moved its headquarters from China to New York City, and swelled its ranks by 10,000 by adding IBM employees, including Ross. Lenovo also retained IBM’s ThinkPad and ThinkCentre brands and its laptop and PC products still come with an IBM label as part of a five-year services and marketing agreement.

Ross, who could not immediately be reached for comment, spoke to ITBusiness.ca in June about the transition and future of the company.

“It’s very much a collaborative effort,” she said. “In Canada, we are a wholly owned subsidiary of Lenovo Group. We are going to continue to focus on servicing the marketplace that we have served well over the last number of years.”

The management shuffle will mean a career comeback for Wright. He will report directly Scott D. Smith, executive vice-president and GM of Lenovo Americas, and will be responsible for Lenovo Canada’s sales, marketing, brand and channel strategies. At Ingram, he was responsible for kick-starting the distributor’s outsourcing strategy, where back-office functions were shifted to India. Although Ingram originally said it promoted Wright because the company recognized key decision-making was taking too long from Ingram’s headquarters in Santa Ana, Calif., he was ousted as it returned to a more North American-wide operations model. Wright did not return calls for comment at press time.

Though he will bring an expertise in managing the Canadian reseller channel at Lenovo, Wright will be taking over an organization that continues to sell direct to customers through its Web site and through its own sales force. Last year the PC division recorded a 23 per cent increase in worldwide revenues over 2003, 72 per cent of which went through the channel.

Lenovo executives recently challenged partners to sell US$3 billion in PC products under the special-pricing Topseller Express program this year, US$1 billion more than they did last year. Teams are already working on marketing to strengthen knowledge of the Lenovo brand in North America. Lenovo has said it will also spend US$200 million around the world to generate demand.

Competitors including HP and Dell have said IBM’s decision to sell off its desktop division has created fear and uncertainty in Big Blue’s customer base about the stability of its PC product line. The company’s most recent product releases include the ThinkCentre E Series line of desktop PCs designed specifically to meet the technology needs of small businesses.

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