Data Connectivity's managing director, Neil Ledger, gives his opinion on the recent changes in management at distributor Ilion (PC Dealer, 8 July).
If you look at the recent movements in the channel, few stand out as much as the changes at Ilion. At the start of July, Wayne Channon re-assumed his position of chairman and chief executive, taking over from Allan Mack.
Mack's year at the distributor shows how important a personality clash can be to the day-to-day running of a business, and you have to look at the personalities and business cultures steering the ship at Ilion to explain the changes.
Take the example of Roger Paul, managing director of Landis. His hands-on approach to business often meant staff either had to love him or hate him, but he had the flair and design to be a winner, and at least staff knew where they stood with his direct approach.
Paul took over Ilion from Channon when it was a normal distributor and he drove it forward. His strong presence meant that on his departure, he took some staff with him to Landis.
The chairman's role was taken over by Mack, who had a contrasting way of handling matters. He took a more hands-off, strategic approach, giving staff the autonomy to run their own divisions.
Mack joined from a broadbased distributor, as joint managing director of Frontline with Graeme Watt. He was perhaps the wrong person at the wrong time - he was responsible for all the pressures put on a public limited company.
I think Mack had more long-term views, which I'm sure would have been successful if he'd had more time to prove himself.
Staff probably found it difficult to adjust from one chairman who was so direct to another who was more laid back. The cultures were also completely different and it couldn't have been easy for Mack to step into the shoes of either of the previous two previous chairmen. Channon and Paul had been heavily involved with the business. I don't know how long Mack had been planning to leave, but there had certainly been rumours flying around for a while.
Then there was the speculation that Mack and Channon were trying to push Ilion in different directions. Mack, apparently, wanted to get back to his roots and turn Ilion into more of a broadline distributor, whereas Channon was determined that networking was the way forward.
I'm not sure about this - certainly Mack's background was in broadline, but he must have realised that he had to remain niche. Ilion is still seen as a networking distributor and I'm not convinced Mack could have got away with moving away from it. Networking is central in Ilion's portfolio.
Of course, there was the profit warning issued in May, the second in six months, but Channon refused to attribute these to Mack's way of running things.
Being a Plc, Ilion had the pressure of not hitting its expected financial targets. And the Azlan situation didn't help. It had a lot of stock which it needed to get rid of and so reduced margins dramatically.
None of us like to see what has happened to Azlan - it does us and the industry no good whatsoever. Ilion was Azlan's closest competitor, so it had to either follow suit, or suffer the consequences.
I don't believe Mack will be short of offers. He'll probably go back into a broadline distributor.
As for Channon, I personally think we'll see him looking around for someone else to fill his position, and that his role as chairman will be temporary.
Interview by Linda Harrison.
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