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Seagate channel rocked by departures

Seagate's Middle East team has been left severely depleted following the shock departure of its channel bosses Gulfem Cakmakci and Ziad Abou Rahal.

Seagate's Middle East team has been left severely depleted following the shock departure of its channel bosses Gulfem Cakmakci and Ziad Abou Rahal. Their exit came on the same day the hard disk drive vendor also parted company with two of its most senior EMEA executives.

The four executives - which include EMEA channel sales director Alastair Stewart and executive director of EMEA sales and marketing Hans-Dieter Blaser - vacated their posts earlier this month.

News of the departures has rocked authorised distributors in the region, particularly as many of them have built up strong relationships with Seagate's channel team. "Nobody had a clue this was coming," confessed one distribution boss. "The real question is why have they chosen now to have four people's contracts terminated?"

With Cakmakci and Rahal out of the picture, Seagate's sole representative in the region is now Christian Assaf, who joined the company less than two months ago to develop the vendor's Middle East channel.

Cakmakci (pictured), who addressed the Middle East region from the vendor's Turkish office, is understood to have been at Seagate for seven years while Blaser - who is a well-known face in the EMEA components channel - has worked for the US-based HDD giant for 20 years. He initially joined Seagate as a central European regional sales director before climbing the ranks to head its sales and marketing activities in EMEA.

When contacted by Channel Middle East, Cackmakci confirmed her split from the company, but declined to go into details. "Yes, it's true, I left in the first week of July; myself and the whole management team has left," she said. "There are some discussions internally so I don't want to disclose anything right now because we are going to get some direction from the company."

Blaser, meanwhile, called the reason behind his departure a "misunderstanding". He said: "I am very positive. I want to work for the company and I am happy to work at Seagate. I think it's all a misunderstanding and we have to sort it out."

Middle East wholesalers contacted by Channel Middle East said they had received calls from Seagate bosses last week informing them of the dramatic news and will now be watching closely to see how the hard drive vendor goes about replenishing what was an established team.

One distributor claimed it was told the changes were a "corporate decision" relating to regulations and policies inside the company, while another revealed Seagate this week sent a member of its EMEA team to the Middle East to reassure channel partners: "They have now started communications with local distributors and have sent Sofocles Socratous [from Seagate's distribution sales team in Europe] who is here in Dubai this week. He will be the guy responsible for Middle East and North Africa."

Ian O'Leary, Seagate's corporate communications manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, could not be reached for comment, but a statement attributed to him confirmed Cakmakci and Rahal were no longer employed by Seagate.

Despite intense channel speculation about the reason behind the departures, the statement avoided any reference to their cause.

"Please understand that I cannot make any further comment on internal employee matters or matters relating to individuals," it read. "However, I can tell you that Seagate's commitment to the Turkey and Middle East is unchanged; we will continue with our significant investment in the region and will be recruiting additional staff shortly. Our customers can be assured that we will continue to provide them with the highest levels of service and the widest range of hard disk drives available in the market."

Seagate - which also owns Maxtor - is one of the world's largest hard drive vendors with 2006 sales topping US$9bn and shipments exceeding 119 million units.