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Xerox Partners Lament Ouster Of CEO Jeff Jacobson, Work To Soothe Jittery Customers

O’Ryan Johnson

Some Xerox partners worry that customers might be apprehensive about doing business with the document technology giant given the pointed shareholder criticism and leadership uncertainty.

"It's a little disconcerting," said Troy Tafoya, president of Professional Document Solutions, a Colorado based Xerox partner. "I've had a few people bring up the fact that the Fuji deal may be under litigation. There has been concern among my larger customers asking, 'What's going on at Xerox?'"

Tafoya said he's redoubled efforts to assure customers that they'll be taken care of and still have access to the equipment and service they've come to rely on.

[RELATED: Xerox CEO Jacobson, Six Board Members Out In Deal To Appease Activist Shareholder Ichan]

At La Plata, Md.-based Just-Tech, President Josh Justice armed his sales representatives with information Wednesday in anticipation that customers could be unnerved by the news that had come out overnight.

"I sent out talking points to our sales reps this morning, just telling customers their agreements are with us, and we will always ensure that they are taken care of, no matter what," Justice told CRN.

Xerox announced late Tuesday that it had largely capitulated to the demands of activist investors Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason, with CEO Jeff Jacobson and six of Xerox's nine other board members stepping down, in exchange for Icahn and Deason dropping their lawsuit against the company. The agreement needs to be green-lighted by a New York state judge by 8 p.m. ET Thursday in order for it to take effect.

The settlement came just days after after a judge issued an injunction against Fujifilm Holding's plan to buy a majority stake in Xerox, ruling that Xerox and Fuji failed to disclose some important parts of their decades-old joint venture to the public.

Channel partners who spoke with CRN praised Jacobson as someone who understood how critical their business is to Xerox.

"I had a chance to speak with Jeff Jacobson several times," Justice said. "I think he was a great asset to the company, a strong leader. I have never had a chance to speak with Mr. Icahn. A lot of what he said makes sense. I'm cautiously optimistic."

Tafoya was blunt in his displeasure with seeing Jacobson go.

"I'm not a big fan of Icahn," he said. "I'm disappointed to hear about all the changes, but both the previous regime with Jeff Jacobson and the Icahn group realize that their partners are key for growth."

Just-Tech's Justice doesn't anticipate that Icahn's installation of allies in both the chairman and CEO roles will affect channel partners as much as other portions of the business.

"There are going to be changes," Justice said. "There may be two directions going forward, but the common point in both are Xerox partners. They've made it clear that channel partners are a part of the future."

Although new CEO John Visentin is new to Xerox, he's no stranger to the channel given his experience serving as CEO of solution provider Novitex Enterprise Solutions and chairman of Presidio, No. 21 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500. Tafoya said he'd like to see Visentin reach out and gain a better understanding of how Xerox works with its mono-branded agents and multi-branded dealer partners.

"I do hope he wants to know what makes Xerox tick," Tafoya said. "It's really the people on the ground with customers, like my company and my people."

Tafoya said his business will be just fine as long as Xerox continues to give partners the resources and support they need to do their jobs.

"From my perspective, we're still focused either way, with whatever regime or people take over, as long as we're a key part of Xerox's growth," he said. "We don't really deal with senior management much. We just take care of customers. That's our job: sell equipment, take care of customers."

Although Carl Icahn can be a polarizing figure, MidAmerica Technology CEO Patrick Leone having him in Xerox's corner is a good thing for the company, its channel partners, and its customers.

Patrick Leone, CEO of MidAmerica Technology, said whether a person is a fan or not, Icahn is a powerful person to have in your corner, which is good for Xerox, its partners, and customers.

"He's a very powerful person. Its human nature to be wary of someone that powerful," Leone said. "But he's on the side of getting the best value for shareholders."

O’Ryan Johnson

O’Ryan Johnson is a veteran news reporter. He covers the data center beat for CRN and hopes to hear from channel partners about how he can improve his coverage and write the stories they want to read.

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