BakBone Axes Execs, Says Move Isn't Prelude To Sun Acquisition

San Diego-based BakBone confirmed that it has eliminated the positions of Charlie Giametta, vice president of North America sales; Mark Milford, senior vice president of worldwide sales; and Doug Spencer, head of R&D.

The executive changes come at a time when BakBone is focusing on expanding its reach into the Linux and Solaris environments -- and when the channel is abuzz with speculation that Sun might acquire BakBone.

Last December, BakBone filed a Form 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission that said Sun and BakBone will negotiate in good faith on an agreement in which Sun will have the right to "purchase authorized but unissued common shares of [BakBone] on terms and subject to conditions to be specified."

A month later at its annual partner conference, BakBone unveiled a strategy to rebrand itself as a Linux and Solaris data protection technology provider, even though most of its business is in the Windows space. Ken Horner, senior vice president of corporate development and strategy, said at the time that BakBone remained committed to the Windows platform as well.

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On Friday, Horner told CRN that the executive changes aren't related to any speculation about BakBone being acquired by Sun.

"The Sun thing again," he said. "If there's one thing you print about Sun, it should be that we love Sun."

Horner said BakBone has strengthened its relationship with Sun even as it has gone through the typical changes that any growing company experiences.

"If Sun wants to do something relative to deepening its relationship with us, they know how to contact us," he said. "We want to focus on Windows, Linux, Solaris. There's nothing sinister here. If Sun wants to talk more, they know how to reach us."

Horner said BakBone made the executive changes to streamline its operations while continuing to focus on Windows, Linux and Solaris. Still, he said he realizes that the channel will have questions about BakBone's commitment to the channel.

"But instead of retracting the channel, we're expanding," Horner said. "We're looking to add partners. All our programs, including deal registration, will continue. But we'll see more training, education and leads handed off to the channel."

Going forward, Milford's worldwide sales management duties will be handled by James Johnson, BakBone president and CEO. Horner's position has been expanded to handle both marketing and sales for North America. And Spencer's position as head of R&D has been merged with the quality assurance management post and is now handled by Bob Woodward, senior vice president of product delivery.

Horner said his assumption of North American sales management duties comes as a result of his work in helping develop the company's sales strategy.

"I'm going to step up into an expanded role," he said. "It's like, if you buy the groceries, you make the meal. Rather than having a handoff from sales to marketing and from marketing to sales, we want a cleaner execution. By having just one direction, one manager overseeing each geography, we have a cleaner strategy."

Solution providers said they like working with BakBone and describe the vendor as a channel-friendly company. However, they said they remain wary about any moves by BakBone that indicate preparations to be acquired by Sun.

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland, Ohio-based solution provider, said it remains to be seen whether BakBone will change its strategic vision in the wake of the executive departures.

"It's hard to evaluate what the changes mean because we haven't been hands-on with the people who were let go," Knieriemen said. "But BakBone has traditionally been a solid partner of ours. BakBone is a great solution that we would have difficulty replacing if it didn't stay in the channel."

John Zammett, president of HorizonTek, a Huntington, N.Y.-based solution provider, said he's concerned about Sun's interest in BakBone.

"When upper management leaves, it's sometimes a preparatory sign for a takeover," Zammett said. "It would not be a good thing for the channel for Sun to have an influence on BakBone. Having seen what happened to the StorageTek resellers [after StorageTek was acquired by Sun], it would not be in the best interest of BakBone resellers."