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CRN Exclusive: Lenovo's Kinlaw Promoted To North American Channel Chief

Lenovo is set to announce Sammy Kinlaw will take the North American channel helm starting April 1 in a promotion that puts the nine-year Lenovo veteran in charge of the company's server, PC and storage channel business.

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Sammy Kinlaw

Lenovo is set to announce Sammy Kinlaw will take the North American channel helm starting April 1, in a promotion that puts the nine-year Lenovo veteran in charge of the company’s server, PC and storage channel business. The promotion comes as the third-largest server maker is ramping up an aggressive battle with Dell and Hewlett-Packard in the server and PC market.

CRN has learned the rising Lenovo star, Kinlaw, who was promoted in October to executive director of North America channel sales for Lenovo’s Enterprise Systems Group, will take the new title North American Channel Chief.

"Sammy has done a great job of quickly integrating the System x business into our channel," said Chris Frey, vice president and general manager of Lenovo's North America commercial business. "He has been on the front line with our partners and has shown results as it relates to System x and making sure [channel] programs and pricing remained simple and easy to understand."

[Related: Lenovo: We're Going To Bring PC Success To System X Server Line ]

Kinlaw will assume Frey’s previous responsibilities as North American channel chief. In January, Frey was promoted to his current position, and for the past month-and-a-half has been juggling both SMB and Lenovo large accounts and Lenovo's North American channel sales.

"Sammy is among one of the rarified few in the channel that, when we engage with him, we are consistently successful,’ said Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech. "Kinlaw is the right guy for the job," he said.

Venero said Kinlaw's biggest challenges are integrating IBM's server business into the channel, which represents the biggest new revenue potential for Lenovo and its partners. "Day one, Sammy needs to communicate to existing IBM partners that things are going to stay the same and get better," Venero said. "We have seen how these big industry acquisitions have gone in the past."


Venero said Lenovo is still in a vulnerable position as it tries to shake off its identity as a commodity PC maker and transition to a go-to OEM with server, storage and mobile solutions. "We have done a lot of business with Lenovo on the client side, and we are optimistic with Sammy's leadership that we'll be able to work successfully with him."

For his part, Frey said he plans on maintaining a visible role in the channel, but it's Kinlaw that takes sole responsibility to run the North American channel as well as complete the integration of the System x business into Lenovo's PC channel. Lenovo has set April 1 as the date for complete integration of the $2.1 billion acquisition of IBM's commodity x86 server business.

"With my expanded responsibilities, I needed to make sure we still had a focus on our preferred route to market, the channel," Frey said. "And with Sammy taking the charge, I knew it would get the attention [the channel] deserves.’

Lenovo maintains it drives 80 percent to 90 percent of sales through business partners. Kinlaw will be charged with the task of growing Lenovo's x86 server business 20 percent more than the market. To achieve that growth, he will focus on courting SMB solution providers through its distribution partners, as he did successfully with the PC.

Kinlaw began his Lenovo career in 2005 as director of distribution sales and was promoted four years later to executive director of channel sales. It was in this position where Kinlaw is credited for igniting Lenovo's channel partners to help it drive PC sales. Prior to that, he worked at IBM for 12 years as a business unit executive. Kinlaw will report to Frey.

PUBLISHED MARCH 6, 2015

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