Channel Remembers Former Intel CEO Paul Otellini As Trailblazer Who Helped Partners Flourish

Intel partners are mourning the passing of former CEO Paul Otellini, whom they credit for leading Intel through its "glory years," increasing profitability for the company and the channel.

Otellini, who was the first non-engineer to take the lead at the chip company, passed away in his sleep Monday, Oct. 2, according to an Intel statement. He was 66.

Solution provider lauded Otellini for his strong commitment to the Intel channel.

"It's a big loss," said Donna Shepherd, senior vice president of Dallas-based M&A Technology, an Intel partner. "Under the leadership of Paul, the channel seemed like it was everything to Intel. They focused on their channel program, on promoting channel programs, on funding events for channel partners. They focused on being the support mechanism for partners… the channel flourished in those years, and that was all Paul's doing."

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[Related: Former Intel CEO Paul Otellini, Beloved By Partners, Has Passed Away]

Under Otellini’s leadership, Intel dramatically stepped up its investment in the channel, in 2011 launching a new partner program – the now iconic Intel Technology Provider Program – that unified resellers and system builders all under a single program.

The program helped the partners better tap into industry trends by integrating Intel’s embedded and compute technologies as well as its enterprise and consumer technologies.

Otellini, who became the company's fifth CEO in 2005 and regularly appeared on the CRN Top 25 list of the most influential executives, drove higher sales growth during his eight-year tenure than the company achieved in its previous 45 years.

In the last full year before he took over as CEO Intel had $34 billion in sales. When Otellini retired in 2013, Intel had grown to $53 billion.

Erik Stromquist, COO of CTL, a Portland, Ore.-based system builder and Intel partner, who worked with Otellini a number of times as an Intel Board of Advisory member, said that the former executive was "down to earth, friendly, and willing to listen."

"He was always very supportive of the channel… he was willing to listen to us and tell us straight up what's going on in the market. I think he helped amplify business with the channel, which was very much appreciated," said Stromquist. "His legacy is missed by the channel… in terms of profitability and growth those were the glory years at Intel."

Randy Copeland, president and CEO of Velocity Micro, a system builder and Intel partner based in Richmond, Va., said "Paul was a terrific guy, very smart and personable."

Copeland, a longtime enthusiast system builder stalwart, first met Otellini during a channel partner meeting, where he asked the former executive during a break if Intel would consider allowing him to 'officially' overclock Intel processors.

After discussing with his lawyers, "Paul looked at me and said 'sure, go for it,'" said Copeland. "That's where officially supported Intel overclocking was born, and my relationship with Paul continued to be about the edge of performance from then on. He was just a really solid and humble guy."

When he first took over as CEO, Otellini made it a top priority to correct Intel's slipping production schedules and tap into missed opportunities. At the time, Intel faced emerging competition from AMD. Within his first months as CEO, Otellini reorganized the executive ranks to put the focus on lucrative markets, as opposed to products.

Otellini also led Intel to the top of the server market during a period of explosive data center growth. Partners say it was Otellini's experience as executive vice president and general manager of the sales and marketing group at Intel that accounted for his channel savvy and business acumen.

But beyond these accomplishments, the channel was always a top focus for Otellini. The former executive during a 2011 interview with CRN said Intel's support for the channel would be unwavering.

"I would just say that Intel and myself in particular remain committed to the channel," he said. "I have been involved with the channel for most of my 32 years at Intel, and I've grown to understand it pretty well. I think we have a very high degree of mutual dependency on each other. And Intel is not going to waver in our support for the channel and I would hope for us to get better and better."

Beyond his role at Intel, Otellini will also be remembered as a mentor and philanthropist – since his retirement, the former executive worked to mentor young people and became involved with an array of charities, including the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.

M&A Technology's Shepherd, who first met Otellini during Intel Solutions Summit in 2010, said that he was customer-friendly and was a people person: "He just knew how to talk to people," she said.

"At ISS, he came up and reached out his hand to greet me, and I just felt like he actually knew who our company was and his whole attention was on the partner. Paul was an amazing person, he made that kind of an impact on me," said Shepherd. "He wanted to make sure we knew that we had the biggest and best partner you can ask for in Intel."