Lenovo Names Rob Cato As New Channel Chief

Rob Cato, a Lenovo veteran who has served as interim channel chief for the company's North America PC and smart devices business since late January, has been appointed permanently to the position, the company said.

Cato had succeeded previous Lenovo channel chief Sammy Kinlaw on an interim basis after Kinlaw departed to become vice president of worldwide channel and OEM sales at printer vendor Lexmark .

[Related: Lenovo Channel Chief Sammy Kinlaw Is Stepping Down ]

Cato joined Lenovo in 2005 through its acquisition of IBM's PC business, and before that had worked at IBM since 1994, according to his LinkedIn profile. He had most recently been serving as executive director for public sector, workstation and OEM at Lenovo.

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"Over the many years spent with Lenovo and IBM in this industry, I have enjoyed creating meaningful connections and relationships with our partners to drive mutual growth and profit," Cato said in a statement. "I look forward to building upon that foundation."

Matthew Zielinski, president of Lenovo's North America business, said that Cato has 25 years of sales experience across both commercial business and the channel.

"Rob’s established relationships, passion and knowledge are ideal for the North America channel business," Zielinski said in a statement.

Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Lenovo partner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said in an email to CRN that Cato is a "great choice" for the channel chief position.

"I love the idea of bringing someone that has been with Lenovo through the good and bad times," Goldstein said. "It looks like he has a lot of channel experience, which really sets them up for the future."

The appointments of Cato and Zielinski -- who began as Lenovo's North America president in mid-February -- come as the company faces stiff competition in the PC market and on the heels of a recent overhaul to its channel program structure.

The company is locked in a fierce battle with some formidable foes for share in the North American PC market, which is continuing to shrink. In the first quarter, Lenovo's U.S. PC shipments fell 4.8 percent on a year-over-year basis, but the company was still able to climb to the No. 3 spot, surpassing Apple, according to research firm Gartner . Its 1.6 million units shipped in the U.S. put it well behind the top two finishers, Dell and HP Inc., with 3.4 million and 3.3 million units shipped respectively, according to Gartner.

To further its cause, Lenovo is continuing to release new PCs at an aggressive pace, including refreshing its premium ThinkPad X1 lineup in January.

In October of last year, Lenovo made what Kinlaw went on to term a "drastic change" in its channel program structure in a bid to make conditions more equitable for reseller partners. Some solution providers have told CRN that the program changes have negatively impacted partner profitability on enterprise contracts, though Lenovo executives have told CRN that major issues have since been resolved .

Lenovo will be holding its Accelerate 2018 partner conference in Las Vegas from May 7-9.