Microsoft’s Frank Clegg takes surprise leave of absence

In a surprise announcement late Wednesday, Microsoft Canada said Frank Clegg will step down as president in January to take an extended vacation with family, but will return next September to assume an undertermined role within

the company.

David Hemler, vice-president, central region, small- and mid-market solutions and partners, will replace Clegg. Neither could be reached for comment at press time.

During Clegg’s four-year reign, Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada grew 78 per cent in revenues and had been twice-named as subsidiary of the year in its region by its Redmond, Wash-based corporate parent. Microsoft Canada earns more than $1 billion in annual sales.

Clegg moulded Microsoft Canada “”during those strong years before the dot-com crash, but also continued to grow the business and move the business forward during the tougher years when there was an economic downturn,”” Chris Trauzzi, vice-president of marketing at Microsoft business partner Cyberplex Inc., said.

This effort in turn generated revenues for partners in the technology industry that could then “”service, support and build on top of”” Microsoft’s “”innovative software,”” he explained.

Trauzzi described Microsoft Canada as a huge supporter of Cyberplex, a Toronto-based technology consulting firm focusing on financial services firms.

“”He’s been given credit for bringing (in) the Bank of Montreal, a key account, and an account that we’ve had the opportunity to participate on,”” he said of Clegg. “”So we’ve been excited about that.

“”We’ve had the opportunity to work together with Microsoft on a number of financial-services engagements, at times working under Microsoft’s lead and at times taking the lead and bringing Microsoft in to support us on engagements.””

Clegg has also been praised for his IT contributions to the community at large. He’s worked with Media Awareness Network and Bell Canada on a public education effort to help parents protect their children online.

He played a major part in assisting the Toronto Police Service to build the Child Exploitation Tracking System, a tool that better tracks and catches online predators and pedophiles. The system will be finished and given to law enforcement agencies before Clegg’s departure.

Yet, perhaps one of the outgoing president’s key public achievements relates to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Three years ago, Clegg led a fundraiser for the CNIB’s “”That All May Read”” campaign, for which he received the organization’s Dr. Dayton M. Forman Memorial Award, recognizing outstanding leadership by individuals or organizations in the advancement of library and information services for Canadians who are blind or visually impaired.

Under this campaign, Microsoft Canada agreed to build a $33-million digital library for the blind, bringing together high-tech partners, providing content such as newspapers and magazines and offering $2.5 million in funding and expertise. The library contains tens of thousands of new books, more than 40 newspapers and hundreds of magazines.

Moreover, Clegg’s team suggested, designed and financed a children’s discovery portal, providing a pathway into the CNIB library, online games like Battleship and a supervised chat room, Jim Sanders, president and CEO of the Toronto-based organization, said.

More than $23 million has been raised under the campaign team leadership of Clegg. Albert Wahbe, president of e-Scotia, was initially co-chair but eventually stepped down.

“”It’s the biggest transformation of a library for the blind anywhere in the world,”” serving three million print-disabled Canadians, said Sanders.

Sanders said when Bill Gates visited Toronto two years ago, one of his five stops was a CNIB gala dinner, where he promised to devote the rest of his career to making information more accessible to the blind, which would also become a Microsoft mandate.

On Sunday, Sanders and Clegg are flying to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash. to showcase the CNIB’s digital library to 75 global leaders of libraries for the blind.

“”Normally a campaign would not last this long, but Frank has not given up,”” criss-crossing the country with his team and “”knocking on doors,”” said Sanders.

“”I told him that he’ll be making calls just before he goes to the airport to take his family”” on holiday.

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