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Tech Data CFO Jeff Howells To Retire After 23 Years

Howells shepherded the company through more than two decades of growth.

Jeff Howells is stepping down as Tech Data's chief financial officer after shepherding the company through more than two decades of growth.

"It's hard not to be proud of growing a company by $27 billion," said Howells, whose last day with Tech Data is June 5. "A smaller, regional distributor from Clearwater, Florida, has become one of the largest distributors in the world."

The distributor's improved financial performance as well as Howells' recently turning 58 -- what he recalls was the retirement age for the then-Big Eight audit firms in the 1980s -- left Howells thinking that it was time to move on. He will be replaced by Chuck Dannewitz, a two-decade veteran of Tech Data, who has spent the past year as chief financial officer for the Americas region.

[Related: Arcserve Dumps Synnex, Tech Data, To Work Exclusively With Ingram Micro]

"I feel very comfortable," Howells said. "The timing coincides with the company being in good hands."

Howells signed a one-year noncompete and nonsolicitation of employees agreement with Tech Data, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In return, Howells will receive his base salary -- which was $793,079 for the 2014 fiscal year -- for a year after his retirement, as well as his fiscal year 2016 target bonus, and will be allowed to vest in restricted stock units in 2016 and 2017.

Howells would entertain opportunities at the appropriate time to join the board of directors of another company, but said his near-term desires don't extend beyond that. For now, Howells said, he intends to spend retirement with family and friends, relaxing and vacationing in Boca Grande, Fla.

Howells said he's pleased by Tech Data's strong front- and back-office teams as well as the company's performance in the past year, where non-GAAP earnings jumping 10.3 percent, to $190.8 million, and global sales climbing 3 percent, to $27.7 billion. Tech Data had just $640 million of sales in 1992, Howells' first year as CFO.

"Jeff has been instrumental in the company's success during a period of significant growth and change," Bob Dutkowsky, Tech Data's CEO, said in a statement. "His expert guidance and sound fiscal management have helped us navigate the ever-changing IT landscape, create the company's efficient operating model and drive its financial performance."

Howells said he is most proud of Tech Data's ability to outlast distributors that were larger, older and better-capitalized. Of Tech Data's core competitors when Howells started at the company, he said, only Ingram Micro has survived.

Howells chalked Tech Data's continued achievement up to strong vendor relationships, a continued focus on emerging vendors and success of the product marketing team in identifying new product opportunities. Wearables and the Internet of Things are expected to fuel an even faster churn in products, according to Howells.

"We don't know what we're going to be selling two years from now," Howells said. "But resellers are not going to be disintermediated, and distributors are not going to be disintermediated."

Moving forward, Howells said, Dannewitz has been instrumental in creating the company that Tech Data is today, praising both his qualifications and deep domain knowledge. Dannewitz was responsible for Tech Data's worldwide treasury operations for more than a decade.

Dannewitz's ascension is a testament to Tech Data's succession planning and the strength of its financial operations, Howells said. Selecting an internal candidate such as Dannewitz will allow for a more seamless transition, he said.

To facilitate the transition, Howells said, Dannewitz will spend the next eight weeks participating in planning meetings and business decisions not only for the Americas region, but for everything the distributor does across the globe.

Dolomite Technology has over the past couple of years made Tech Data its primary distributor, thanks to its awesome customer service, prompt responses to quoting or information requests, and the ease of swapping between portals, said Matthew Hutchings, president of the Henderson, Nev.-based company.

He said he hopes that Tech Data under Dannewitz's tutelage will enable partners to build digital catalogs so customers can explore all of their technology options in a single place.


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