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Disty Pioneer David Dukes Mourned As Affable Ingram Micro Relationship Builder

Former Ingram Micro President, Co- Chairman and Vice Chairman David Dukes, 76, who passed away last week after a long bout with COVID-19, is being mourned as the one-time affable, generous heart of the distribution power house.

David Dukes, who helped build tight knit relationships with both vendors and solutions providers during Ingram Micro’s go-go growth years, is being mourned as the affable, generous heart of the distribution power house.

Dukes, 76, who passed away last week after a long bout with COVID-19, was former president and chief operating officer, co-chairman and vice chairman of Ingram Micro.

Dukes is a former Vietnam veteran who will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in the future.

[RELATED: Ingram Micro Sees WFH Growth From COVID-19, Lower Advanced Solutions Sales]

Before joining Ingram, Dukes had been a prominent solution provider executive at Inacom who was well liked and respected by colleagues. That helped Ingram build strong bonds with partners.

Chip Lacy, Jr., the former longtime CEO of Ingram who hired Dukes in 1989 as president of the US business, said Dukes “instantly” made Ingram a better company.

“David understood the dealer network and had great relationships with key vendors,” said Lacy. “He had a maturity and calmness that really helped the company as we grew. It was a rough and tumble, low-margin business. David provided a smoothness to our edges. He was a great face of the company.”

Dukes, in fact, was largely responsible for building out the rock-solid relationships Ingram built with vendors and solution providers, said Lacy. “David understood how people thought better than I did,” conceded Lacy.

Lacy said that there were many times as Ingram faced critical junctures with vendors and solution provider partners where Dukes took him aside and showed him a “better way” to approach a problem. “He was right,” said Lacy recalling the many relationship building moments that Dukes brought to bear at Ingram. “David understood how people thought better than I did.”

When multiple Buffalo, New York television stations staked out an Ingram Micro board meeting it was the unflappable Dukes who faced the press to inform them that Ingram Micro was expanding its Buffalo campus.

“When it was time for someone to talk to the media, there was no way I was going to do it,” said Lacy, often viewed as the yin to Dukes’ yang. “I would have given a seven paragraph explanation. David went out and beautifully handled communicating with that community in a way that no one else could have done in that company.”

Dukes eventually become vice chairman of Ingram working side by side with Lacy, who retired in 1996. Dukes himself stepped aside two years later in January 1998.

Lacy said he considered Dukes a friend and trusted advisor during a special time at Ingram Micro. “He was a good friend and just a good person to be around,” said Lacy.

Bob Anastasi, the former head of global equity research for Raymond James, which was a key investment advisor for Ingram, called Dukes the kind of “gracious and generous” person that others looked up to as a role model.

“David was a fantastic relationship person,” said Anastasi. “He relished developing personal relationships. I don’t know if there was anyone better at that. That was David. He and Chip were a terrific team.”

Anastasi credited Dukes with helping build out the modern distribution model. “Ingram, Tech Data and others were an important part of getting hundreds and thousands of new products to the market at a time when prices for computers and peripherals dropped so dramatically that vendors could not afford a direct sales force,” he said. “David was an integral part of building that business.”

Dukes was the founding Chairman of the Global Technology Distribution Council GTDC, the industry association representing distributors worldwide that now make up $150 billion in annual sales.

Frank Vitagliano, the current chairman of the GTDC, said Dukes was the consummate relationship builder that understood the channel landscape and nurtured tight relationships between distributors, vendors and solution providers.

“David understood all sides of the business and always led Ingram Micro to solutions that worked for both vendors and solution providers,” said Vitagliano. “His legacy was as a relationship builder at a time when it was very contentious with distributors and vendors. David contributed to the model we have in place today where we have a very strong partnership between vendors and distributors as opposed to a win-lose kind of relationship. His legacy was as a leader that helped shape the current model of distribution. He helped pave a path in which distributors really understand how to work with the vendor community in a true partnership.”

Former Tech Data Chairman and CEO Steve Raymund said Dukes was an “inspirational” figure among his many friends in the industry. “David was admired for his leadership and vision and beloved for his kindness and honesty.”

After his retirement, Dukes was chairman of the board of directors for Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), one of top children hospitals in the country. He also owned Newport Beach landmark restaurant Cappy’s.

David was also a loving father and family man. He leaves his daughter Savannah, and his wife, Laura. He also leaves several children from his second marriage and his first marriage to his wife of 20 years, Sammy, who died of brain cancer.

Robert Faletra, executive chairman of The Channel Company, the parent of CRN, offered condolences to the Dukes family on behalf of the entire channel community.

“David was loved and respected by the channel community,” said Faletra. “We all are going to miss him. David and Chip together were a wonderful duet at a time when distribution was intensely competitive and the industry was evolving. David always took the time to work with vendors and solution providers to make the industry a better place for the entire channel community.”

Faletra said there were many times during his reporting days at CRN when he walked into an interview in which Dukes was side by side with Lacy to ensure that CRN got the full picture of what Ingram was trying to accomplish as a company.

“David was a true gentlemen and he and Chip were a great team that challenged us at CRN and its competitors in the market,” he said. “There are a lot of things I miss about those days of the industry’s formation and David is one of them.”

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