It's been an interesting three months for David Henderson: a cloak-and-dagger departure as Toshiba's general manager in March; a new job as a marketing manager with SAP in April and, now, a rebirth as managing director, Australia/New Zealand of PC manufacturer AST.
What's more is that Henderson says his number-one responsibility as AST's MD is to strengthen the company's ties to the reseller channel. Sources say AST has lost ground with many resellers over its hit-or-miss channel policies. "They sell direct when it suits them and when it doesn't they allow the sales to pass through resellers. It's a bit of a 'have your cake and eat it too' scenario," said one. According to Henderson, though, those days are over.
"We're going to be doing a lot more than saying 'sorry' to the resellers. We're going to be saying (a) you're vital to what we do, and we're making changes to address that fact, and (b) there's still money to be made in hardware," he said. "We want to bring in acceptable levels of margin that are going to benefit the resellers."
Henderson told ARN he will be able to speak in greater detail about AST's channel plans when he officially takes over on July 16. "It's not going to be a vanilla offering to resellers, I can promise you that," he said.
US-based AST was formed about 10 years ago and enjoyed smooth sailing until its 1993 acquisition of electronics retailer Tandy. Efforts to incorporate the two operations strained AST's financial and organisational resources, resulting in some rather serious business difficulties. Although AST is still a relatively strong $US2.5 billion company (with about $US100 million of that coming from Australia), it has its work cut out for it. One thing that may help is the infusion of capital from Samsung, which has taken a 49.9 per cent equity stake in AST. Not only will this help to fill up AST's coffers, it gives the company direct access to Samsung components, which may strengthen the company's manufacturing process.