Channel bewildered by Rust, Baillie departure

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Channel bewildered by Rust, Baillie departure

Channel leaders have expressed surprise and bewilderment at Kerry Baillie's and Steve Rust's retirement from Ingram Micro, predicting a destabilising effect on the distribution giant after its merger with main rival Tech Pacific.

Channel leaders have expressed surprise and bewilderment at Kerry Baillie's and Steve Rust's retirement from Ingram Micro, predicting a destabilising effect on the distribution giant after its merger with main rival Tech Pacific.

Ross Cochrane, managing director at Express Data, said it was the busiest time of the year, with the end of the financial year coming up and two large companies coming together.

"I would have thought they'd want all hands on deck," he said.

Ingram Micro Australia managing director Kerry Baillie and chief operating officer Steve Rust announced this morning they were retiring from the company.

Ingram Micro is grooming Guy Freeland, a former Tech Pacific staffer, to take over when Baillie leaves the company in September. Rust would depart on May 31. Freeland has so far been unavailable for interview.

Cochrane said Freeland's appointment suggested Ingram wanted to keep a tight rein on things financial. Freeland is currently Ingram Micro's chief financial officer.

"You would usually find a more conservative approach from a person with a financial background rather than a sales background. Sales is what both Rust and Baillie had," he said.

"I know Guy Freeland has been around with the TechPac group for some time, but I wasn't aware he was operational. So I think he's going for a more broad top position than an executive position. Which, again, strikes me as unusual."

A company targeting growth would likely appoint an "aggressive sales guy", Cochrane said. In this case, the distributor seemed to have other fish to fry, he suggested.

He'd had no idea until this morning that Rust and Baillie were leaving.

"It's a bit of a surprise that both of them are going at the same time and that it's just a few months after they really put the companies together and made a commitment about building up the business," he said.

Wendy O'Keeffe, general manager at networking distributor LAN Systems, said she was stunned by the news.

"My understanding was that Kerry was looking at retirement pre-merger, he'd done a great job turning [TechPac] around. But the fact that he'd gone on to take on the new role suggested that he wasn't retiring," she said.

O'Keeffe said a major leadership change when a major merger was still bedding down could be destabilising for all involved. "It depends, but it seems a bit strange they're both going," she said.

Such a large distributor would probably have strong staff in its team already who could move up into the role. However, any kind of management change could be positive or negative, O'Keeffe added.

Mark Kofahl, director at specialist distributor Tecksel, agreed the timing of the departures was interesting. "It's a risky business, managing two big businesses," he said.

"Usually, people in Steve Rust's and Kerry Baillie's position will know both organisations pretty well and can steer the ship on a steady path. So that will rock the boat," Kofahl said.

The move would "raise a few questions" among Ingram's competitors, suppliers and customers, Kofahl suggested.

Dave Stevens, managing director of service provider Brennan IT, said Ingram must have "very good reasons" for letting both men go within a few months of each other, and of the final bedding down of the merger.

"It might upset the apple cart," Stevens said. "You'd think they'd have kept them in a bit longer."

Baillie told CRN this morning he had been discussing his leaving plans for about a year.

The integration of TechPacific with Ingram Micro was complete. "I didn't expect to stay this long," Baillie said.


 

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