Ed Smith, who was recently promoted to Avnet Inc. senior vice president of embedded systems, global, has left the distributor effective today, a corporate spokeswoman confirmed. Smith, a 20-year veteran of Avnet, served as president of Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas since 2009 and was elected as a corporate officer in 2010. Prior to that Smith had worked for Avnet in various sales and operational positions for eight years: he left the company for a short period to pursue other opportunities.
Although no reason for Smith’s departure was provided, the move may be part of a housecleaning as interim CEO William Amelio strives to take the 60-plus year old company in a new direction. On July 11 Amelio, a member of Avnet’s board of directors, replaced former CEO Rick Hamada, a 30-year veteran of the distributor. Amelio confirmed during a recent conference call with analysts that he is interested in staying on as CEO at Avnet.
Avnet has historically promoted from within and Smith was one of several long-time Avnet executives considered as contenders for the CEO spot. However, indications are that Amelio, a former CEO of Lenovo, is leading the pack for the top job. “I would assume I’m the frontrunner,” Amelio said during the conference call. “But with that in mind, I’ve had some of the most exciting times I’ve had in a long time in the last four weeks of being able to be associated with a really world-class team. And I think we’re in a great market, I think this is a great opportunity. So I’m very interested in [the job]. The board, of course, has their fiduciary responsibility to make sure that we do a credible search and to make sure that we leave no stone unturned. I expect the search to be done relatively rapidly and I’m hopeful for good news sometime in the future.”
As interim CEO, one of Amelio’s tasks is to help steer Avnet back to consistent sales growth and profitability. Avnet’s Q4 sales of $6.2 billion were down 8 percent year over year; fiscal 2016 sales of $26.2 billion were down 6.1 percent percent year over year. The expansion of Avnet’s embedded systems group was one effort to move the distributor into higher-margin businesses; its bid for Premier Farnell is another.
Avnet significantly increased its stake in embedded systems in 2013 with the acquisition of Europe’s MSC Group. Smith’s vision for Avnet embedded included providing consistent products and services across its three major regions: the Americas; Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA); and the Far East. “One of the differences [in the embedded unit] is we not only sell hardware and design services, we do after-market services,” Smith explained to EPSNews earlier this year. “We can install the end product and provide the warrantee. The ‘sale’ may go on for a period of time so the customer relationships are deep and lengthy.” According to Transparency Market Research, the global embedded systems market, valued at $152.94 billion in 2014, will grow to $233.13 billion by 2021.
Smith, who is known for his candor, began his career at industrial distribution company W.W. Grainger. He spent eight years at Avnet, where he held various sales and operational positions, including district manager in Los Angeles and Phoenix, and director of sales for Avnet’s Industrial Marketing Group. He left Avnet for the opportunity to serve as president and chief executive officer of SMTEK International, an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider, and served on its board of directors. Smith subsequently returned to Avnet in 2004 to accept the post of senior vice president of sales for Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas.
Smith has been very active in distribution industry associations and an outspoken advocate of the channel. As profit margins on component sales have eroded, Smith has worked with suppliers to keep distributor margins intact. He has suggested that customers bear some responsibility for counterfeit components if they buy outside of authorized channels, and has criticized distribution practices that have become outdated. During his tenure at Avnet Smith was a recipient of the Avnet Chairman’s Award in 2007, which recognizes outstanding achievement and in 2008, he was honored by the National Electronic Distributors Association (NEDA) with its Distinguished Service Award. In 2009, the NEDA Education Foundation elected Smith as president.
An Avnet Inc. spokeswoman said the company wishes Smith well in his future endeavors.