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Lou D'Ambrosio, the dynamic chief executive of Avaya, announced Tuesday that he'll be stepping down from his post "to address a serious medical issue." His departure will be effective immediately.
In D'Ambrosio's absence, former Cisco Systems stalwart Charles "Charlie" Giancarlo will assume D'Ambrosio's duties until a successor is found. Avaya said its board will immediately launch a search to find a full-time replacement for D'Ambrosio using executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.
"It has been a true privilege to serve the customers and team of Avaya," D'Ambrosio said in a statement. "I have been blessed to lead a company that has clear technological leadership, a wonderful customer franchise, and the most dedicated team in the industry. I will be passionately rooting for Avaya and proudly watching the company thrive."
D'Ambrosio served as Avaya's president and CEO for two of his six years with the company and was responsible for Avaya's overall strategy, direction and operations. He was instrumental in Avaya's move to become a private company in October 2007 in an $8.3 billion deal with technology investment firms Silver Lake and TPG.
Before taking over as CEO, D'Ambrosio was president of global sales and marketing for Avaya, overseeing the communications company's $5 billion revenue stream. Prior to that, D'Ambrosio led the P&L for Avaya's $2 billion Global Services business unit, comprising 7,000 professionals across the full life cycle of services, including network consulting, integration, maintenance and managed services.
"For almost six years I've had the opportunity to be part of a remarkable company and team," D'Ambrosio wrote in a letter to Avaya employees dated Tuesday. "Avaya has become such a large part of who I am-"it's in my heart; it's in my bones. So it is with a very heavy heart that I tell you that I need to step down as CEO to address a serious medical issue. I will fight it with everything I have and I intend to beat it."
D'Ambrosio's exit and illness sent shock waves through the industry, with solution providers and industry analysts calling his stepping down a surprise and the circumstances surrounding it jarring.
"For me, it's more of a personal thing," said Neil Stanton, president and CEO of ConsultEdge, a Whippany, N.J.-based solution provider and Avaya partner. "You never want to see someone step down like that."
Stanton said D'Ambrosio took the bull by the horns and helped transform Avaya into a strong contender in the communications and VoIP market while also strengthening its channel.
"He's done a great job, everybody thought so," Stanton said. "It's a shame, but I don't think it's going to change our business."
Stanton said D'Ambrosio "looked tired" the last few times he saw him and noted that D'Ambrosio stepping down was the right move, considering his health problems.
Stanton credited D'Ambrosio for taking the channel in a new direction.
"His getting Avaya direct and the channel to work as a single unit really worked toward simplifying how Avaya does business and makes it easy for our clients."
Scott Davis, executive director of Xeta Technologies, a Broken Arrow, Okla.-based solution provider and Avaya partner, said he and his team have "a great deal of respect for Lou and Avaya and wish him well. Our thoughts and well wishes go out to Lou."
Davis said he's been pleased with his relationship with Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya and the direction D'Ambrosio took the company in.
"We have a real respect for Avaya's landscape and their go-to-market strategy," Davis said. "We're consistently impressed with Avaya. Their go-to-market strategy is sound for unified communications and their contact center initiative is strong."
Industry analyst and Yankee Group Senior Vice President Zeus Kerravala called D'Ambrosio "an outstanding CEO" for Avaya.
"He brought a level of competitiveness to Avaya that it never had before," Kerravala said. "He helped Avaya shed the image that it was a stodgy old telecom vendor. He was much more aggressive with marketing and made it a global brand."