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Lenovo Channel Chief Sammy Kinlaw Is Stepping Down

The departure comes several months after Lenovo enacted sweeping changes in its PC channel program.

Sammy Kinlaw is departing as vice president and channel chief for Lenovo's North America PC business as of Jan. 19, several months after making what he called a "drastic change" in Lenovo's channel program structure to make conditions more equitable for reseller partners.

Kinlaw, a Lenovo veteran who took the North American channel helm in April 2015, is pursuing an unspecified opportunity outside Lenovo, the company said. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a statement to CRN, Lenovo emphasized that the company is committed to the channel. "We have always considered our channel an integral part of our market value. Ninety percent of Lenovo's business is fulfilled through the channel. The success of our partners is our success. As a result, we will continue to put the channel first. We have aligned our business to better serve our mutual customers," the company said.

[Related: Lenovo's Kinlaw On Resolving Issues Created By 'Drastic Change' In The Channel Program]

Lenovo has appointed another veteran of the company -- Rob Cato, executive director for public sector, workstation and OEM -- to serve in Kinlaw's role on an interim basis as Lenovo looks for a permanent channel chief.

"I'm sorry to see Sammy go. He put some great programs and energy back into Lenovo. He will be missed," said Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Lenovo partner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"Rob has some big shoes to fill," Goldstein said. "But knowing Lenovo's background and choice and staff, I'm sure he'll be doing a great job for the channel."

Kinlaw began his Lenovo career in 2005 as director of distribution sales. He was promoted four years later to executive director of channel sales, before moving up to channel chief in 2015. Prior to Lenovo, Kinlaw worked at IBM for 12 years as a business unit executive.

This past October, Lenovo rolled out a host of changes to its channel program structure, affecting margins on PC products for some VAR partners.

In an earlier interview with CRN, Kinlaw said the moves were "difficult" but necessary to make the pricing structure more equitable for all resellers. "I had really to make a drastic change," he said.

The result, Kinlaw said, was that Lenovo "created an even playing field where every VAR can participate."

Lenovo is in the midst of a tough battle with PC makers HP Inc. and Dell in the North American market, while facing pressure from the decline of traditional PCs as well as increasing costs for memory and other components.

Lenovo slipped into fourth place in the third quarter of 2017 in terms of U.S. PC market share—behind HP, Dell and Apple—as shipments fell 25 percent for the company.

Lenovo, however, is continuing to release new PCs at an aggressive pace, including refreshing its premium ThinkPad X1 lineup at CES 2018 this week. The company is also remaining focused on being partner-friendly, according to Goldstein.

"We are seeing some new programs from Lenovo wrapped around Device-as-a-Service with security, which we do find interesting," Goldstein said. "Unique programs like this will definitely help drive Lenovo's popularity in the channel."

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