CRN Exclusive: HPE Global Chief Samuels Is Out, Whitman Chief Of Staff Hunter Takes Top Channel Job

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Global Channel Chief Denzil Samuels (pictured), who has been with HPE for just nine months, is leaving the company and is being replaced by HPE CEO Meg Whitman's channel-savvy chief of staff Paul Hunter.

Hunter, a 15-year HPE veteran with experience as an HPE business unit and channel sales leader in the United Kingdom, takes the helm with HPE in the midst of the massive Next restructuring.

HPE President Antonio Neri said in an internal memo that Samuels - a former and GE Digital channel executive - has decided to leave HPE at the end of the first fiscal quarter Jan. 31 to pursue "other sales-focused opportunities." He said Samuels will help "transition" the Channels and Alliances organization - which was launched last month - to Hunter.

[RELATED: New HPE Global Channel Chief Hunter On His Relationship With Meg Whitman, His 'Number One Priority' And The Changing Partner Landscape]

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"I’d like to thank Denzil for his strong contributions to the business in FY17 and for setting up the team for ongoing success," said Neri in the memo. At the same time, he said he was "thrilled" to welcome Hunter, who will assume the position effective immediately.

"Partnership is in our DNA and is one of our company’s three core values," said Neri. "As we double down on the channel and drive more business through this key route, we would entrust this vital organization only to someone we’re sure can get the job done."

In an interview with CRN, Neri said Hunter - who has worked side by side with Whitman for the last three years - is the right executive to lead the channel sales charge under a new global sales structure..

"Paul has the (channel) DNA and a deep understanding of the business with our channel partners," said Neri, who worked closely with Hunter during the British native's tenure heading up the channel and personal systems business in the United Kingdom from 2009 to 2014. "He knows all the channel partners cold. He knows the CEOs. Ultimately he likes to win with our channel partners which is the core of our strategy going forward."

Hunter's chief of staff role, in fact, has put him side-by-side with Whitman in front of all of HPE's top partners around the world. Those relationships with top channel executives along with the confidence of HPE's senior leadership- including Whitman and Neri - will be critical in helping close deals in the sales trenches, said HPE partners.

Rick Chernick, the CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise partner in Green Bay, Wis., No. 323 on the 2017 CRN SP500, said Hunter has the all important relationships within the company to make a difference for partners in the sales trenches. "Paul knows what is going on and what needs to be done," said Chernick. "Being close to Meg for as long as he has is a big plus for the channel. I think he is going to have a lot of success. I am very happy for him."

Kelly Ireland, founder and CEO of Orange, Calif.-based CB Technologies, an HPE Platinum partner, said Hunter's chief of staff role provided him with "ample exposure" to the needs of HPE partners and customers. "With his past experience leading the channel in the UK to his years of being exposed to all levels and aspects of customer, distributor and partner relationships, Paul has the broadest breadth of experience that will be invaluable in taking the channel to the ’next level," she said.

Hunter, for his part, pledged to leverage those relationships with Whitman, Neri and the sales leaders to help partners win deals and drive sales growth. "I can help the partners get things done and when there are changes in the company or there are initiatives we want to start I hear them immediately and I have got a seat at the table when we are having discussions about how to go and execute them (with partners)," he said.

Hunter said his "number one priority" during the next 120 days will be to get out and meet with partners. Furthermore, he said, partners can count on no sudden changes in HPE's channel strategy or direction.

"One of the real advantages of working with HPE is we have been a predictable partner to work with," said Hunter, noting that the company's 2017 partner satisfaction scores are up compared to a year ago. "Actually the first thing I need to do is not change too much stuff. I think there is a tendency when new leaders get appointed the first thing they want to do is go and change a ton of stuff. That will not be my inclination. My inclination will be to build on what is already working."

One significant change with Hunter taking the role is he will have responsibility for all route to market programs including ISVs,OEMs and system integrators. That was not the case under Samuels.

"That is important because as you know the landscape for partners is changing and partners are changing their business models," said Hunter. "There is no one traditional channel partner anymore. There are partners and they have different business models and what they do for customers is changing and we need to have program capabilities that encompass all types of partners with respect to their specializations."

Hunter said he is particularly excited about the Simplivity and Nimble 100 percent channel sales model. "If we are able to do with Simplivity and Nimble what we have done with Aruba that is huge," he said. "The Aruba business has grown by $1.5 billion in two to three years. If you are able to achieve similar growth with Nimble and Simplivity and apply it to our channel that is huge."

Hunter said "it is a privilege" to take the top channel job as HPE moves to accelerate partner sales growth under the Next restructuring. He said he couldn't have better training for the new job than working under Whitman.

"When I came over (from the United Kingdom three years ago) to be (HPE CEO) Meg's (Whitman's) chief of staff it was training for a future leadership role," he said. "I couldn't have gotten better experience than working with Meg and the leadership team in Palo Alto for three years. That set me up for this role to lead the channel team globally. I am privileged to be doing and am really excited about. It is a good time to be a leader in Hewlett Packard Enterprise.I think it is an exciting time for the partners as well."