Lenovo’s affable North America channel chief, Sammy Kinlaw, is leaving the company. Rob Cato, executive director at Lenovo since 2016, is stepping in as interim chief.
Kinlaw, whose official title is vice president, North America channel and U.S. SMB, will be out as of Friday. He reportedly is pursuing an opportunity outside of the company.
The disruption in channel leadership comes as Lenovo works to build its Data Center Group business and struggles against the tide of declining PC shipments globally. As of July 2017, the market was in a five-year slump, with 11 straight quarters of declining shipments, according to Gartner. HP Inc. reclaimed the top position from Lenovo in PCs in the second quarter of last year.
In an interview after Lenovo Accelerate, the company’s partner conference in April, Kinlaw outlined his three priorities for the following 12 months. The three areas of focus: a premium mix of product, such as Chrome, X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga; workstations; and services.
At that time, Stefan Bockhop, Canadian channel chief, was picked to lead the DCG channel business.
Nearly ten years ago, Kinlaw stepped into the role of director of distribution sales at Lenovo and six years later was appointed executive director of channel sales, responsible for leading Lenovo’s U.S., Caribbean, and Central America channel sales. In 2014, his job as executive director, NA ESG channel sales, included responsibility for the integration of the IBM System X channel business — the same year the company acquired it from IBM for about $2.1 billion.
Kinlaw spent 12 years with IBM, 1993-2005, as a business unit executive. He moved over to Lenovo a few years after Lenovo acquired IBM’s Personal Computing division — specifically, the ThinkPad line of PCs in 2005, in a $1.25 billion deal.
The new interim channel executive, Cato, is also a veteran Lenovo employee who also moved over to the company after a 10-year plus career at IBM, and is no stranger to the channel. He held the job of director, North America channel sales for about six-and-a-half years, beginning in October 2008. At that time, he was responsible for driving Lenovo products, services and solutions with and through key distribution DRC and Tier II partners.
According to Lenovo, Cato has earned a solid reputation for successfully launching and leading businesses at the company, and delivering strong results. He’ll hold the position until a permanent replacement is found.