CenturyLink, Level 3, Windstream Channel Execs Talk Mergers

By Josh Long Comments
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CHANNEL PARTNERS — CenturyLink, Level 3 Communications and Windstream all have closed significant acquisitions over the last year.

On Tuesday at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, channel executives with CenturyLink, Level 3 and Windstream explained how the deals have strengthened their companies in the marketplace. VIRGO CEO John Siefert moderated the roundtable discussion.

As Michael Jerich, Level 3's VP of the indirect sales channel pointed out, his employer boasts a vast worldwide footprint thanks in part to its acquisition last year of Global Crossing.

Blake Wetzel, vice president of sales for the CenturyLink Channel Alliance, said he believes his company is in a position to "be the leader in cloud computing." It's been nearly a year since CenturyLink scooped up Denver-based Qwest Communications International in a blockbuster deal, but it was CenturyLink's more recent acquisition of Savvis over the summer that has given it a significant play in the cloud computing space.  Over the next 30 days, the telecom provider will merge the Savvis master agent program with the CenturyLink Channel Alliance, Wetzel said.

CenturyLink continues to integrate Qwest. Wetzel said he has “very rarely" interacted with a customer who has a problem related to a merger at CenturyLink. He said he’s worked through several mergers. “It’s been the biggest and the least eventful," Wetzel said, presumably referring to CenturyLink multibillion dollar acquisition of Qwest under a transaction that made CenturyLink the third-largest fixed telecom provider in the U.S.

As for Windstream, most readers will remember that the telco completed its acquisition of PAETEC late last year. Don't expect the combined company to minimize the indirect channel. Windstream CEO Jeff Gartner is extremely involved in the channel, according to Windstream's vice president of channel sales Dan Sterling. The senior management is "100 percent  committed to the channel," he said.

Sixty days after Windstream acquired PAETEC, the companies began selling each other’s services,  Sterling said. He also said a common product set will be released July 1.

“Windstream has a very long track record integrating companies," he said.

Asked about the biggest surprise that has come from the merger, Sterling responded, “the people at PAETEC." He was complimentary of PAETEC’s management and noted that Windstream kept two presidents from PAETEC following the acquisition.

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