5 Companies That Had A Rough Week

The Week Ending March 25

Topping this week's roundup of companies that had a rough week is Verizon Enterprise Solutions, which lost channel chief Adam Famularo.

Also making the list are Fortinet, which lost two more key executives; Lenovo, which lost some executives and reassigned others; Lexmark, which said it would lay off close to 150 at its Kentucky headquarters; and Microsoft, which shut down and adjusted its artificial-intelligence-powered bot, Tay, due to concerns about its inability to recognize when it was making offensive or racist statements.

Not everyone in the IT industry was having a rough go of it this week. For a rundown of companies that made smart decisions, executed savvy strategic moves -- or just had good luck -- check out this week's 5 Companies That Came To Win roundup.

Famularo Leaving Verizon

Adam Famularo, Verizon Enterprise Solutions' channel chief, said he's leaving the company effective April 1 to become CEO of a software company. He will be succeeded by Vice President Janet Schijns, a five-year Verizon channel veteran who is highly regarded by partners.

Also during the week, Verizon Enterprise Solutions has become the victim of a data breach that affected more than a million of its enterprise customers. That could have implications for telecom and cloud security solutions, according to solution providers who talked with CRN.

First reported by security journalist Brian Krebs, the breach allowed hackers to collect information on an estimated 1.5 million clients, including basic contact information. Verizon said in the report that no customer proprietary network information or other data was accessed. The data was found for sale on an underground cyberforum.

Losses Of Top Fortinet Execs Raise Partners' Concerns

Security vendor Fortinet recently lost its chief marketing officer and head of enterprise sales, the latest in an exodus of several top executives, sources told CRN Tuesday.

CMO Holly Rollo and Pete Brant, senior vice president of Americas enterprise sales, have both departed, a company spokesperson confirmed. Brant joined F5 Networks as senior vice president of North American sales, while Rollo left just months after joining Fortinet; one source said she has taken on an executive role at RSA.

Partners had praised recent moves by Fortinet to invest in marketing. But one top partner executive, who did not want to be named, said the recent resignations in sales and marketing show that Fortinet is likely not putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to marketing investment.

Another partner executive agreed, saying it has been more difficult to get funding for partner marketing programs recently.

Fortinet channel chief Joe Sykora said the company's marketing budget is up "significantly" over last year, and that it has increased channel marketing headcount but declined to provide more details, citing the company's quiet period.

Lenovo Shuffles More Executives

Lenovo is again shuffling its leadership deck, naming Emilio Ghilardi president of Lenovo North America and Aymar de Lencquesaing chairman and president of Motorola Mobility and co-president of the company's mobile business.

Meanwhile, Rick Osterloh, who had headed up Motorola Mobility, has left the company, Lenovo said in a statement.

The moves, effective April 1, are the latest in a series of executive changes at Lenovo. De Lencquesaing had been named president of Lenovo North America in a management overhaul about a year ago.

Joe Lore, sales director at Woburn, Mass.-based Lenovo partner Sunnytech, said his company saw 15 percent year-over-year growth with Lenovo last year. Still, all the movement "makes it difficult" to build relationships with inside sales representatives.

In a statement, Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing said the departures and reassignments are intended to "accelerate our transformation into a customer-centric company." A Lenovo spokesman told CRN the changes would have no impact on its channel program.

Lexmark Will Lay Off 143 At Kentucky Base

As a part of its plan to shed more than 1,000 employees to save money, printing vendor Lexmark will lay off 143 workers at its headquarters in Lexington, Ky., according to documentation it filed with Kentucky state officials.

The layoffs would take effect between May 25 and June 8, according to local news outlet, WKYT.

Last July, CEO Paul Rooke said Lexmark would cut 500 people worldwide at that time and, during its fourth-quarter and year-end earnings call last month, said it would drop another 550. Lexmark also said last month that the layoffs would primarily impact its Imaging Solutions and Services division, which covers printer sales, services, marketing and research and development.

Last year, Lexmark said it had hired Goldman Sachs to "explore strategic alternatives," which could include a sale of all or part of the company.

Microsoft Pulls Plug On New Bot After Controversial Tweets

One day after its launch, Microsoft took down its new artificial intelligence chatterbot, Tay, after online users were apparently "teaching" it offensive or racist statements that it relayed, according to a report in TechCrunch.

Tay was designed to mimic the language patterns of a teenage American girl and learn from interacting with Twitter users.

But less than a day after its launch, Tay would often repeat back racist tweets with her own commentary, TechCrunch said. Microsoft said it's "making adjustments" to Tay, TechCrunch reported.