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Forcepoint Layoffs Cut Deep Into Channel Organization: Sources

Forcepoint cut roughly two-thirds of its North American channel staff last week, including regional channel chief Mark Nehring, channel account managers, and channel marketing team members, sources told CRN.

Forcepoint has laid off most of its North American channel team just weeks after the platform security vendor was bought by Francisco Partners, sources told CRN.

The Austin-based company let go of roughly 10 North American channel employees last week, including Mark Nehring, who had been Forcepoint’s North American channel chief since January 2019, according to a source familiar with the situation. The cuts affected channel account managers (CAMs) supporting large national partners, the channel marketing team, and sales and marketing staff in non-channel roles.

As a result, the source said Forcepoint now has just a senior manager and four CAMs covering all North America, where the company transacts around $500-to-$600 million each year through the channel. The cuts leave Forcepoint’s North American channel team at just a third its previous size and without staff dedicated to partners like Optiv, Insight, CDW and ICM, who contribute some 80 percent of revenue.

[Related: Forcepoint Snags Former Arista, F5 Exec Manny Rivelo As CEO]

“I think this move by Francisco Partners leaves a lot of the channel questioning where they’re taking Forcepoint,” the source told CRN. “When the reseller partner is confused, that does not spell growth out on the streets; it spells divestment from Forcepoint.”

The layoffs took place March 9, less than two months after Francisco Partners bought Forcepoint from Raytheon for $1.1 billion and installed former Arista and F5 executive Manny Rivelo as CEO. Rivelo hired John DiLullo as chief revenue officer, who took over many of the responsibilities once held by ex-VP Global Sales Strategy John Sorensen, who had been integral in making Forcepoint more partner friendly.

“When the new leadership came in, they talked a lot about increasing their commitment to the channel, and it appears the opposite is happening,” a second source told CRN, who characterized themselves as “concerned.”

Forcepoint told CRN that it’s looking to better align itself with where the security software market is going, specifically as it relates to the adoption of SASE (secure access service edge) architecture among enterprises and government customers. The company historically worked with a large cadre of SMB-focused channel partners and customers dating back to its pre-Forcepoint roots as Websense.

“Forcepoint is optimizing our company and workforce to create an organizational structure aligned with our business direction,” the company told CRN in a statement. “Forcepoint continues to invest in a robust global partner program with the resources, incentives and training support to enable our partners to be more successful.”

The company declined to tell CRN the number of people it laid off last week. Global Vice President of Channel Sales Oni Chakravartti remains with the company, as does Vice President of North American Sales Jeffrey Giannetti, who was Nehring’s supervisor. Forcepoint is hiring for engineering, customer support and sales roles supporting its enterprise and government customers, the company told CRN.

Still, a number of Forcepoint leaders are following Nehring, Sorensen, and former CEO Matthew Moynahan to the exits. Vice President of Corporate Marketing Benjamin Tao said on LinkedIn Monday he’s left the company, another executive told CRN their last day is later this month, and Chief Strategy and Trust Officer Myrna Soto told CRN she plans to leave to focus on her board and VC responsibilities.

As for the channel, the source said Sorensen helped get 90 percent of Forcepoint’s business moving via partners, with only global government customers and large enterprises like Raytheon and Walmart buying direct. But with the layoffs, the source expects SASE and data protection rivals like Palo Alto Networks, Zscaler and Digital Guardian to capitalize on Forcepoint’s lack of direct support for national partners.

“It [the layoffs] gives the impression Forcepoint doesn’t see the value in the channel,” the source said. “Their actions are the complete opposite of what they’re saying.”

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