Exclusive: Birch, With Cbeyond Buy Done, Chooses Channel Chief

**Editor’s Note: Please click here for Channel Partners’ complete coverage of Birch’s acquisition of Cbeyond.**

Birch Communications Inc. has chosen its channel chief in the wake of finalizing the Cbeyond purchase, and it’s giving agents and dealers details about what’s next for their businesses.

Birch's Brad SmithFirst, Birch has kept its channel chief, Brad Smith, as head of the partner program. Cbeyond’s Zane Long has left the combined company on “very good terms,” a Birch spokesman told Channel Partners on Friday before the official closure announcement was made.

Birch further has tasked Paul Masters, who served as president of Ernest Communications, which Birch bought last year, to work on indirect enterprise and multilocation sales. More information was not immediately available.

Smith’s title now is vice president of indirect sales; he was promoted to vice president of dealer sales earlier this year. Smith has worked for Birch since 2002, when the company was called Access Integrated Networks, with an eight-month stint at TEM provider Asentinel in between.

Meantime, Long confirmed to Channel Partners on Friday that July 18 marked his last day at Cbeyond. He will be able to announce his next role, which still will be in telecom and the indirect channel, in August, he said.Zane Long

Long had served as Cbeyond’s vice president of indirect sales since April 2011. During those three years, he helped shape the Cbeyond 2.0 initiative that changed the provider’s go-to-market strategy from just connectivity to include cloud and managed services, mobile devices and other more sophisticated communications platforms. Partners also know Long from the channel programs at GENBAND and Level 3 Communications Inc.

With Smith in place, Birch this week is reaching out to its dealers (a term the company uses interchangeably with “agent”) to keep them apprised of what happens next. In a letter to partners, Smith called the combination of Birch and Cbeyond “a long-term commitment to your clients to provide a broader array of services priced and designed to make their businesses successful. After this transaction closes, your client’s business will be served by a company with strong financial resources and an expanded network that will provide them with access to more communications, cloud and managed IT services.”

“This is a long-term commitment to you,” Smith added.

In the short-term, though, he told dealers that Birch and Cbeyond will maintain separate operations for the next 30-60 days as systems are integrated and new branding completed.

Perhaps of greater interest to partners is the state of their contracts and the products available for them to sell. Smith assured dealers that more is better.

“Cbeyond dealer contracts will be assumed and honored by Birch,” he said, echoing previous statements from Birch CEO Vinnie Oddo. The assumption of partner contracts was a new move from Birch, which, in previous acquisitions, purchased assets; contracts are considered liabilities.

“As we integrate the order process and unification of our products will become clearer,” Smith said. “For now, if you have a dealer contract with Cbeyond, orders placed through Cbeyond will be honored by your Cbeyond agreement. Similarly, orders placed through Birch will be honored by your Birch agreement.”

Plus, “no sales opportunity will go unsold,” Smith wrote. That means Birch partners now may offer products they didn’t couldn’t before, including Metro Ethernet, fiber, MPLS and cloud PBX.

Finally, Smith said, “Your Birch clients will not be impacted by the integration in any way. We will be taking great efforts to ensure this integration is as smooth as possible and seamless to Cbeyond customers. Cbeyond services will continue to operate as they have; all products and services are being maintained and supported. Cbeyond prices and services will not change, and services will not be interrupted through the integration of the companies.”

Birch on Monday closed the $323 million purchase of Cbeyond, which was first announced in April. Cbeyond soon will fall under the Birch brand and no longer trades on the NASDAQ.

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