Tech Data Shakeup Not Related To Synnex Merger: Top Exec

Tech Data President of the Americas John O’Shea tells CRN in an exclusive interview that the departure of the company’s North American sales lead had nothing to do with the upcoming merger with Synnex, but was part of a wider shift in executives and business organization aimed at making the distributor more responsive to the needs of an increasingly digital world.

Prepping For The Future In More Ways Than One

A top Tech Data executive said a recent sales department reshuffling is unrelated to the company’s pending merger with Synnex, which would create a $57 billion tech goliath.

“What it’s really all about is how do we meet the needs of the partner base as we’re all transforming together,” Tech Data President of the Americas John O’Shea, told CRN. “And these executives have a tremendous amount of experience.”

On Wednesday, CRN reported Marty Bauerlein, a 13-year Tech Data veteran, has left the company. Bauerlein, one of Tech Data’s most well-known personalities, left as senior vice president of North American sales for over three years, and prior to that led U.S. sales. The move, which included the shifting of several other of the distributor’s top executives, came in the early stages of the even bigger change coming: the pending merger of Tech Data with Synnex to build what will be the biggest IT distributor on Earth.

While it is easy to draw the conclusion that the executive shuffle stems from changes Tech Data might make as it prepares for the coming merger, that would be wrong, said O’Shea.

Instead, O’Shea told CRN, the changes at the top stem from moves Tech Data feels are necessary to better serve solution providers looking to bring advanced cloud, edge, and other technologies to clients who are pushing to digitize their operations.

[Related: Synnex’s Michael Urban: 5 Bold Statements On The Synnex-Tech Data Merger]

While Tech Data formally unveiled the new executive roles, other parts of the upcoming digital transformation moves were done more quietly, including combining cloud and advanced technologies into a single operation and a move in emphasis from simple endpoint devices to the edge.

For a look at the reasoning behind the executive changes and how Tech Data is changing itself to be more responsive to partner needs, click through the slideshow.

Is the change in executive leadership related at all to the pending merger between Tech Data and Synnex?

The reality is I’ve been in this job now for, jeez, it’s hard to believe it’s been almost 10 months. And really during that first 100 days, I spent a lot of time listening to partners and vendors and our colleagues throughout the Americas. And I also realized that when I stepped into this role that there were transformation projects already underway. So this is really just part of the transformation initiatives that had begun before I stepped into this. And of course, I’ve been working with the team to guide them to this point. But yeah, this is really more about Tech Data’s transformation to meet the needs of our customers and partners in market.

So why did Marty Bauerlein (pictured) leave?

First off, I’ve worked with Marty for a number of years. I’ve been customer of Tech Data as well as having grown up here. So Marty and I have worked for a long time, and he’s made some really significant contributions to Tech Data since 2005. We certainly thank him for all the contributions that he’s made.

Over the course of the last several months, as we looked at this transformation initiative, one of the things that I’ve been looking at really closely and in these conversations with customers or vendor partners is to understand how do we need to evolve our value proposition? How do we need to align our structure with our strategy? And so, obviously as the leader of the Americas, we’ve been going through and trying to understand how best to do that. And also from a leadership philosophy perspective, one of the things that’s been pretty important to me and my career is making sure that we have new and different perspectives on how to create value for our customers. Everything in our business is changing and transforming. So sometimes having a new set of eyes, a new perspective, and a different background to take a look at those opportunities is really important. And so, when you look at the leadership team that we have now in the Americas, Sammy Kinlaw has been a sales leader at IBM, a global sales leader at Lexmark, and a and channel sales leader at Lenovo. So he’s very well known in the industry. He brings a very diverse background to Tech Data, having been in a vendor channel leadership role as well as for the last six months he’s been here at Tech Data running our end-point solutions business. So he’s stepping into that role with a real different perspective on the value proposition. Kevin Kennedy, who has been the leader of our advanced solutions business, I’ve asked Kevin to go run something completely different for him, which is the endpoint business or what we will be calling the edge solutions business.

Did you say edge solutions, and not endpoint?

Yeah, you’re going to hear that transformation coming from us. And that’s because we think there’s a lot of value that’s emerging in these edge technologies. And so what I’ve asked Kevin to do is bring a new perspective as our advanced leader into that endpoint or edge business going forward. So again, new set of eyes, new perspective on how to add value for our customers and our partners.

And then of course, Stacy Nethercoat who has been what we’d like to call an intrepreneur here at Tech Data. She’s developed our cloud business and our cloud offering. And the way that we see this unfolding in our view is that cloud and our data center business, advanced solutions, those two things are getting closer and closer. We also have this other part of our business that we call next-gen, which is really where cloud security and analytics and IoT have been.

So with this change, we’re bringing all of those things closer together, and Stacy is going to run all of that. So we think, again, from her perspective and background doing a lot of different things in Tech Data and the ability to bring cloud, data center, and next-gen technologies together is a new way to think about this business and create value for customers. What it’s really all about is how do we meet the needs of the partner base as we’re all transforming together. And these executives have a tremendous amount of experience. But they’re also bringing new perspectives, which is really important.

So now I caught you just saying that the endpoint business is going to be renamed as the edge business. Is that a division or is a business unit within the company?

What we think about right now, and we’re not announcing that yet. We’ll talk about that a little bit more as we put the finer touches on it. But as we think about the evolution of the endpoint business moving more into these edge technologies, we’ll share more information about that and the timing of when that would be more official, but that is the direction.

[With] those experiences that this team is bringing to the table, this is a team that has worked together and they’re gonna rely on each other as we go forward. So Kevin is stepping into Sammy’s job. They’re going to have to help each other. Sammy is certainly gonna need Kevin’s help. That’s the same with Stacy and Kevin as well. So it’s going to be a lot of us working closely together to make sure we’re really aligned with what partners need. And then the other part, which I don’t want to neglect to mention, was not part of the change we made yesterday, but we also brought in a very experienced executive from IBM named Catherine Solazzo who’s now the leader of our marketing organization in the Americas. So really great experience being brought to the table to move us forward.

It’s interesting to hear about the renaming of the endpoint business to edge given that Tech Data this week said it is bringing its advanced solutions and cloud business under a single organization. Are there any other internal changes?

No, that’s it. Really, Joe, you’ve got it.

So going back to my original question, was Marty's departure an amicable one?

From my perspective, what I would say is that, I just have to repeat what I said before. I knew Marty for a long time. He made a lot of contributions to our business since he’s been here. And you know, we wish him the best.

You have been at Tech Data for 21 years, and in your current role for about 10 months. In the last 10 months, what are some of the biggest changes that have impacted Tech Data, outside of the impact from the planned merger with Synnex.

Besides the merger announcement, we have also been going from being a public company to a private company [through the acquisition by Apollo Global Management]. That happened just before I stepped into this role. For me, it has been a great experience working with Apollo as a great partner. They’ve actually pushed us to do some really great things, make some investments. And as I stepped into this role, they’ve been a great partner and a sounding board for me, and very, very supportive. I would say, yeah, that’s probably number two. After number one, the recently announced merger.

The next thing on the list I would say is just the incredible focus of this team on the transformation of our business with everything that’s going on around us. Put aside the fact that we went through the Apollo transaction and now we’re talking about this merger. The world is changing around us pretty substantially. When you think about the migration to cloud and hybrid cloud technologies, as-a-service subscription consumption models, I’ve been spending a tremendous amount of my time talking with vendors and customers about how we can best support their transition into these new modalities of doing business. And it’s about the depth of technical expertise, but it’s also about the financial services and support that we provide. So a big thing that I would mention has been the commitment of Tech Data around our new offering called TD Capital. This is a pretty big deal as we think about how the way that we buy and sell technology is changing from the vendor to us, to our partners, and all the way through to the end users, TD Capital is a big investment that we’ve made to help support that transition. I think that’s evidence of all of these changes that are going on and, and how we’re trying to align that value proposition to meet the needs of those customers. That’s just one example, but there’s a number of these things that are changing the business model and obviously with our partners quite often we’re their biggest financial relationship.

Is TD Capital a fairly recent offering from Tech Data? When did that start?
It’s fairly recent in the last few months under a gentleman named Wayne Peters, who is the leader of our TD Capital business. He’s a really great guy, and he really understands what partners need from this part of the business.

You mentioned that Tech Data’s relationship with Apollo has brought you other business ideas besides TD Capital. Can you give me another example of something where Tech Data has changed as a result of suggestions or ideas from Apollo?
Another example is around ESG (environmental, social, and governance). From a sustainability perspective, that’s a big focus for Apollo. It had been a focus for us, but they actually encouraged us to ramp up those efforts as part of our business as well. I think that certainly had an impact. It’s not something you might think about every day from the business perspective but it’s something that’s important to them. It’s important to us. And so we’ve been able to accelerate some of those efforts.