A decade in distribution: Where are they now?

This slideshow highlights some of the distributors that have gone, expanded or moved on since 2000, and looks at where you’ll now find their founders, leaders and biggest supporters

  • Ken Lowe, BCN Technology: BCN entered the Australian market in 1991 and was a significant player throughout the nineties and early noughties, representing brands like Sony, VIA, Leadtek, Swann, Canon, LG and SuperMicro. The components distributor and PC builder was unable to keep up its dominant presence and by August 2006, [[artnid:160790|owed over $4 million to its 50 or more creditors, administrators claimed]]. Ken Lowe, the managing director of BCN up until its demise, disappeared off the radar. ARN is continuing its hunt to find Lowe.
  • Jack Zhong, TodayTech: TodayTech was established in Australia in 1990 by founder and managing director, Jack Zhong, as a retail outlet selling IBM-compatible computer solutions to the consumer market. The company grew into a system building and components distribution house with $120 million in turnover during the early 2000s. But despite its long history in Australia, [[artnid:321288|TodayTech went into voluntary administration in October 2009]], three months after losing its critical distribution agreement with Intel. Zhong hadn’t returned ARN’s calls for comment at time of publication. However, he established a successful business in China prior to TodayTech’s demise and is understood to be pursuing that further.
  • Stephen Harrison, Cellnet: Well-known Cellnet founder, Steve Harrison, established the company as a telecommunications accessories distributor with co-founder, Mel Brookman, in 1990. The business rose from strength to strength over the years, floating on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1999 and acquiring a presence in IT distribution with IT Wholesale in October 2000. The acquisition was followed up with its Cassa purchase in 2003, raising Cellnet’s total annual revenues to almost $700 million. After stepping down as CEO in 2005, Harrison was involved with start-ups like Cru Group, as well as maintained a cattle ranch in rural Queensland. He returned as Cellnet’s chief in 2007 and made the drastic decision to [[artnid:265814|axe its PC distribution business]]. He then [[artnid:275039|resigned for the second time in February 2009]]. Earlier this year, ARN spoke with Harrison about his current occupations and plans for the future. His response? Playing polo and discussing various new business opportunities in South America.
  • Keith Rice, KH Distribution: Boutique distributor, KH Distribution, was established by Rice in 1996 as an Apple-only wholesaler based out of Brisbane. After over 10 years as a prominent player in the distribution space, [[artnid:162697|KH was sold to Simms International in August 2006]]. Rice retired from the IT industry in March 2007, but admits he still likes to read about the various personalities and players in the market – even if he isn’t keen to put his toe back in the water.
  • Australia’s distribution industry has gone through massive change over the past decade. Maturity of technology, coupled with changing usage behaviours, forced many distributors to merge, acquire or simply close their doors. It also saw a host of prominent individuals enter and exit the distribution market. Ten years on, this slideshow highlights some of the distributors that have been, gone, expanded or moved on since 2000, and where you’ll now find their founders, leaders and biggest supporters today.

  • Scott Lidgett, ChannelWorx: Well-respected for its networking and security expertise, Melbourne-based ChannelWorx was established in 1998 and became a niche but important player in the Australian distribution market. The company was snatched up by [[artnid:200146|Avnet in November 2007 for an undisclosed sum]]. Co-founder, Scott Lidgett, played an influential role at the company before the Avnet purchase. Lidgett told ARN he spent nearly a year consulting to Avnet and assisting with the integration of the two companies, before taking four months off to tour Europe with the family. He also spent time renovating his Melbourne home. Lidgett is now busily involved in two IT-related companies: First Wave, a provider of cloud, Web and email security products; as well as brand new security specialist, IPsec. The company has three divisions: A Managed Security Services Provider arm, consulting, and security products sales. “Interestingly, I’ve changed from distribution to working in the reseller space. It’s nice to be back in the IT market and directly interfacing with end users,” he said.
  • David Cullen, Tech Pacific/Daisytek: A seven-year stint with Tech Pacific (1996-2002) as managing director propelled David Cullen into the Australian distribution history books, but it was his short stint as managing director of Daisytek from 2002-2003, which gained the biggest headlines. US-based Daisytek stepped into the Australian market with its acquisition of General Stationery Supplies in July 2001, and had nearly 100 employees as its peak locally. But its parent company’s decision to [[artnid:65537|file for Chapter 11]] at the beginning of May 2003 was swiftly followed by the appointment of voluntary administrators to the Australian division, and liquidation in July 2003. Administrators, [[artnid:36454|Pricewaterhousecoopers, estimated the company’s debts to sit at $40 million]]. After Daisytek’s closure, Cullen switched into different wholesale industries with hardware supplier, White International, Global Food Equipment and Komatsu Forklift Australia. According to his LinkedIn profile, Cullen has just taken a position as CEO of CaesarStone Australia, a manufacturer of quartz-based surfaces.
  • Michael Bosnar, Prion Technology/eXeed/CA/MailGuard: One-time Prion technology managing director, Michael Bosnar, has had a [[artnid:68483|colourful career in Australia’s IT industry]]. After his stint with Prion, Bosnar formed distribution heavyweight, eXeed, in August 2001 with Frank Colli (of Leading Solutions fame) and NZ-based Keith Watson. Well-known for its distribution relationship with HP, eXeed also made headlines following failed mergers with [[artnid:72885|Dicker Data]] and [[artnid:54083|Digiland]], before losing its agreement with HP in 2003. [[artnid:129252|eXeed went into receivership in Australia in 2005]]. After his stint in distribution, Bosnar took up a role with CA as channel manager, before an abrupt departure in May 2008. He [[artnid:263721|moved to security vendor, MailGuard, six months later]] as its first sales director – a role he retains today.
  • Hugh Evans, Agate/Siltek/Moneytech: Evans has been a prominent figure in the Australian IT distribution industry for over 20 years. After a stint with Banksia Technology, he established Agate as an IT distribution house in 1991. The business expanded from three staff to 70, before becoming a subsidiary of Siltek and merging with Prion Technology in 1999. The [[artnid:29574|Agate and Prion brands rebranded under Siltek]] in 2001. Evans [[artnid:33321|resigned as Siltek Asia-Pacific CEO in March 2001 following a dispute with directors]] over the company’ future. Ever the entrepreuneur, Evans reappeared in June 2004 with his venture, [[artnid:15286|Moneytech, a third-party financier aimed at providing credit to the IT channel]]. The company now claims to have almost every Australian distribution on-board as merchants for its DealerCard, along with a cross-section of local resellers. Since its launch, Moneytech has expanded out of IT and into other vertical markets such as health and food and beverage.
  • Know of a few more? Then send us an email:

  • Stuart Ellis, Tech Pacific/Ingram Micro: Long-serving Tech Pacific and Ingram Micro employee, [[artnid:278631|Stuart Ellis, was retrenched in March 2009]] during a massive restructure of the business. Ellis was a veteran of Australian IT distribution – before his most recent role as general manager of the Solutions/Enterprise Group at Ingram, Ellis established Tech Pacific’s enterprise solutions team. He was recruited to the distributor in the 1980s by Jodie Rich. Ellis told ARN he was headhunted by a recruiter out of Toronto for a regional position with an IT business in the Middle East after leaving Ingram. Although the initial plan was to relocate for 3-5 years, he ended up turning down the role because of family commitments. However, Ellis did spend several months consulting to the IT company out of its Cairo office and assisting with its regional plans. Ellis is now doing contract work in Australia and is looking for a permanent role back in the local IT industry.
  • Michael Muscat, BBF/Bluechip Infotech/MTD/Multimedia Technology/Tacsum Distribution: Muscat was a co-owner and managing director of BBF Components and Peripherals (alongside Ron Jarvis) from its inception in 1989 until it was [[artnid:58213|acquired by Bluechip Infotech in 2003]]. Following the deal, he took on a marketing position with Bluechip, then Multiemedia Technology (which [[artnid:148790|rebranded to Magnafield Technology Distribution]]) and Multimedia Technology as purchasing manager. In August 2008, he exited the company and launched niche player, Tacsum Distribution, an IT distributor of networking, PCs, peripherals and accessories including sub-distribution of Edimax and Cyberpower from Bluechip. Meanwhile, Jarvis continues to work for Bluechip. Muscat told ARN his new business was about providing “good old customer service” to regional resellers across Australia, while promoting emerging global brands locally. “I’ve gone back to grass roots selling, which I’ve not really done since BBF,” he told ARN. “It’s very gratifying.”
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