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SonicWall’s New CEO On M&A, Channel Commitment And The Biggest Cyber Threats

Jay Fitzgerald

Bob VanKirk took command of the platform security vendor on Aug. 1, six years after the company’s spin-off from Dell Technologies.

SonicWall CEO Bob VanKirk
SonicWall CEO Bob VanKirk

On August 1, there was a changing of the guard at SonicWall, the Milpitas, Calif.-based platform security vendor.

Bill Conner, who had served as chief executive of SonicWall since it was spun off from Dell Technologies in 2016, officially handed the CEO scepter to Bob VanKirk, the company’s chief revenue officer since 2019.

Though Conner remains at the privately held company as its new executive chairman of the board, both Conner and VanKirk made it clear in an interview with CRN that VanKirk will be responsible for the day-to-day operations at the 1,600-employee SonicWall.

“I’m still working but transitioning to just doing less day to day,” said Conner, who described his new position as that of a strategic advisor to VanKirk, a longtime friend and work colleague of Conner’s

Among the topics the two have been discussing of late: the company’s products lineup, and organic and inorganic sales growth.

In other words, there are possible acquisitions on the horizon for SonicWall, which is majority owned by private equity firm Francisco Partners. Elliot Management is a minority owner.

One thing is also clear: SonicWall intends to keep its traditionally strong channel partnerships – 17,000 of them in all – as strong as possible.

“We are 100 percent channel,” said VanKirk, noting he’s spent the past few weeks meeting with partners and company personnel as he settles into his new CEO role.

The company declined to disclose its revenue numbers, but a source and published reports put its billings at more than $400 million and $140 million in earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

In a March press release, the company said that 2021 was its “best year on record.”

The following is a portion of CRN’s interview with VanKirk, covering a wide range of issues, from how he splits duties with Conner to the firm’s M&A designs.

 
Jay Fitzgerald

Jay Fitzgerald is a senior editor covering cybersecurity for CRN. Jay previously freelanced for the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, Boston magazine, Banker & Tradesman, MassterList.com, Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, the National Bureau of Economic Research and other entities. He can be reached at jfitzgerald@thechannelcompany.com.

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