Cisco's Linksys Cuts Global Channel Chief

Cisco Systems' Linksys division Wednesday shook up its channel organization by eliminating its worldwide channel chief position and pushing channel responsibilities out to the heads of its geographic sales teams, ChannelWeb has learned.

The consumer and SMB networking outfit has cut the role held by Nigel Williams, vice president of the worldwide channels organization at Linksys, and given each regional team more control over its channel, said Rod Keller, senior vice president of worldwide sales at Linksys, Irvine, Calif.

"What we've done is move the worldwide channels role from a global role and pushed it all the way down to the [geographic] theaters, so the theaters now work and collaborate directly with Cisco to bring a better story to our channels of why Cisco and Linksys combined as we both try to penetrate the SMB space," Keller said.

Williams' role at Linksys has been eliminated, and he is currently seeking a position within parent company Cisco, Keller said.

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Williams this week was named a CRN 2008 Channel Chief in CMP Channel's annual list of the channel's most critical players.

He could not immediately be reached for comment.

A Linksys spokesman said no other positions were impacted.

One Linksys partner was surprised by the move but was optimistic that the new structure would ultimately benefit channel partners.

"Hopefully it will add more value to the businesses involved, resellers and end users alike," said Austin Smith, chief executive of Digital Son IT Services, a Linksys solution provider in Lawrenceville, Ga. "Whatever they have to do. I'm a businessman, not a politician, so I try not to get too wrapped up in these things," Smith said.

The move aims to improve cooperation and collaboration between Linksys and Cisco, particularly as Linksys strives to establish itself as a legitimate SMB player in the minds of channel partners that too commonly perceive it as a consumer-only brand, Keller said.

"We just haven't ever worked very collaboratively, and if you look at some of our competitors, I think their biggest fear is the day that we wake up and we complement each other [rather] than, perhaps, compete with each other," Keller said. "We think by now allowing the theaters to work directly with their Cisco counterparts, we have a far better chance of being able to implement that instead of trying to drive it from headquarters around the globe."

NEXT: North America gets a new channel chief

The end result will be that channel partners see a more tailored, comprehensive, collaborative offering than they've seen from either company by themselves, he said.

Linksys' global channel sales and operations continue to report up to Keller, but responsibilities previously held by Williams, such as U.S. and Canada channel sales and channel marketing, have all been dispersed.

That means responsibility for all North American channel sales falls under Robert Gregerson, who now has the expanded role of vice president of U.S. and Canada sales. Gregerson joined Linksys last year to run U.S. and Canada retail sales.

"We know where we have optimized partners, and we know that the contributions from those partners that sell both Cisco and Linksys products are growing even stronger than those that are Linksys-only, so we're going to continue to collaborate with the Cisco force to make sure that we grow those partners, continue to solicit other new partners into the fold and continue on the same path basically that was started by Nigel and the team," Gregerson said.

Gregerson came to Linksys from Polaroid, where he worked alongside Michael Pocock, who left Polaroid and joined Linksys as senior vice president and general manager in 2006. Gregerson took over Pocock's role as president of Polaroid after his departure. Previously he served as president of direct market reseller PC Connection. Prior to that, he ran North American channel sales and marketing for Compaq.

"I've got about 26 years of channel history. It is in my blood," Gregerson said.