Sources: Former HPE Channel Sales Superstar Vrij To Lead Lenovo's Global Partners, EMEA Business


Go-to-market superstar Robert Vrij, who spearheaded partner engagement and drove channel sales at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is taking his leadership talents to Lenovo, according to sources.

Renowned as a channel advocate, Vrij is slated to become senior vice president and president of EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) for Lenovo. In addition to running Lenovo's EMEA business, he will also take ownership of some the vendor's key channel relationships with global partners such as CDW and Insight as well as distributors such as Ingram Micro and Tech Data, sources said. Lenovo is expected to announce Vrij's hiring publicly this week.

Solution providers said hiring Vrij will be a game-changer for Lenovo.

"Robert's going to bring a lot of channel credibility to Lenovo and their program," said Kenneth Lamneck, president and CEO of Tempe, Ariz.-based Insight, ranked No. 13 on the CRN 2017 Solution Provider 500 list. "He set up a really solid strategy for HPE and partners, and set up some great programs. He has great follow-through to really execute on everything. … This is a really strong move by Lenovo. He will have an immediate impact at Lenovo for sure."

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Vrij previously was senior vice president of HPE's Enterprise Group and managing director of HPE Americas. He was responsible for leading enterprise sales across the region as well as coordinating business strategies before leaving in late 2016. Vrij has just completed his 12-month non-compete clause after leaving HPE, according to sources.

Sources said former HPE America's superstar Vrij will now lead Lenovo's EMEA data center group, worldwide global accounts and the growth and strategy of selected top global partners. Lenovo did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

"He's a very senior, talented, experienced executive that will bring an amazing set of talents to Lenovo," said Robert Dutkowsky, chairman and CEO of Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor Tech Data. "He'll be able to build programs that will comprehensively deliver products into the market and improve the overall operations of [Lenovo's] go-to-market model."

Dutkowsky said Vrij is a sales leader who builds programs that leverage the strengths of partners with the ability to work hand in hand with the channel to close deals.

"I'm excited to see him in a role where he can influence the channel because he understands what makes a successful vendor," said Dutkowsky.

Lenovo recently has seen some executive leadership turnover, including the departure of its North America president, Emilio Ghilardi; Gary Smith, COO and head of the company's PC and mobile device business; and Sammy Kinlaw, vice president and channel chief for Lenovo's North America PC business.

"Lenovo has had a number of challenges over the years with executive leadership," said one source familiar with the matter. "So this is a good move for channel partners to have somebody of Robert's caliber that's responsible for growing the data center business. … He put in a number of stopgaps into the HPE system, which moved more of the enterprise business to the channel. So this is a big deal for guys like Tech Data, Ingram Micro, CDW, and it will be a big deal for partners with global customers. … Robert is an unbelievable fan of the channel. He'll be a champion for the channel."

Vrij joined HPE in 2013 after serving five years at Alcatel-Lucent as executive vice president and chief of global sales and marketing, as well as president and chairman of Alcatel-Lucent USA. He was responsible for managing $15 billion in sales, as well as global alliances, marketing and communications. Vrij also spent nearly a decade at AT&T and Lucent Technologies, including a role as president and CEO of Lucent Technologies for EMEA.

"He knows this market very well. He knows the key partners and knows the technology," said Insight's Lamneck. "Overall, he knows all the partners very well, and has a very strong following and strong relationships that will help Lenovo. … We're very excited."