3Com Names New China-Based CEO

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3Com Tuesday named board member Robert Mao as its new CEO. The Marlborough, Mass.-based company said it will support its increasing focus on its China-based H3C operations by basing Mao in China, noting in a statement that the new chief executive's bi-cultural background, fluency in both English and Mandarin and his business experience in Asia will help bridge the company's Chinese and western business operations.

Mao replaces Masri, who has held the title of president and CEO since August, 2006.

3Com has also hired Ronald Sege as president and COO. Sege, who joined 3Com Wednesday, will be based in the U.S. and will focus on 3Com operations outside of China.

Mao previously served as 3Com's executive vice president of corporate development from August, 2006 to March, 2007 and is currently a member of 3Com's board of directors. Prior to joining 3Com, he served as president and CEO of China operations for Nortel Networks.

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Sege most recently served as president and CEO of wireless broadband vendor Tropos Networks. He previously spent nine years at 3Com from 1989 to 1998 in various senior management positions.

The move to base its top executive outside the U.S. has some solution providers feeling like 3Com is abandoning the North American market.

"I don't know what to make of it. There's been little to zero leadership in North America for five years, and the decisions that have been made were either inconsequential or just silly, and now we're looking at leadership coming from mainland China," said Glenn Conley, president and CEO of Metropark Communications, a solution provider in St. Louis. "It sounds like they're putting a bullet in the way they've done business in the U.S. and maybe starting from scratch."

Conley made the difficult decision at the end of last year that Metropark could no longer continue as a 3Com-exclusive VAR and has since added partnerships with other networking and communications companies and technologies, including Alcatel-Lucent, AltiGen Communications and Asterisk, the open-source VoIP platform.

"We're still representing 3Com ... but I just can't have all of my eggs in that basket based on the decisions they're making," Conley said. "I'm sad. I'm just sad that it's come to this point."

Masri's departure follows 3Com's ill-fated attempt to be acquired by investment firm Bain Capital Partners and Chinese networking vendor Huawei Technologies, a move that was scuttled in March after the U.S. government raised national security concerns over Huawei's involvement.

3Com's H3C China operations began as a joint venture with Huawei.

The company then dissolved its global channel management team, pushing out global channel chief Nick Tidd, in favor of a regionalized partner strategy.