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Ex-Ingram boss named Synnex CEO

Kevin Murai will succeed founder Bob Huang in November of this year

It didn’t take Kevin Murai long to get back in the game. Less than three months after officially stepping down as president and COO of Ingram Micro (NYSE: IM), Murai has joined rival Synnex (NYSE: SNX).

Murai will serve as Synnex co-CEO alongside current president and CEO Bob Huang. Huang is expected to retire in November and be named chairman of Synnex, leaving Murai as the sole CEO.

“It’s just a great opportunity,” said Murai of joining Synnex. “It’s an industry I think I know well, and I know a lot of people in.”

After announcing his plans to step-down from his position with Ingram Micro last summer after a 20-year career with the distributor, Murai officially left his position with Ingram in early January. At the time, the Toronto-native told CDN he wanted to be able to spend more time with his wife and four children. He added the commute between Toronto and Ingram’s Santa Ana, Calif.-headquarters was less than ideal.

“It was a difficult decision to move on and start the next chapter of my life,” said Murai at the time.

After a few months off with the family though, including taxi driver service and vacations to Hawaii and Australia, in his new position Murai will again be commuting between his family in Toronto and Synnex’s Fremont, Calif. offices. He says with Synnex there will be a lot less international travel than with Ingram.

“I’ll be able to get back to see the family more often than not,” said Murai. “The family had big, long conversations on this and I think it’s a very workable situation. I have full support from them.”

From a business perspective, Murai says he joins Synnex at an exciting time for the distributor, and that his biggest challenge will be filling Huang’s shoes and carrying-on his strategic vision for the business around diversification into higher-end technologies, including driving more integrated services and business process outsourcing (BPO) as well as broadening the portfolio.

“Synnex has been making good progress on that strategic path, and that’s a strategy I absolutely believe in. I think it is the right strategy,” said Murai. “As I get more into learning in more detail about the business I don’t really expect to see any significant change in the strategic direction.”

Among the familiar Synnex faces for Murai will be Jim Estill, who will be reporting into Murai as CEO of Synnex Canada. Estill calls Murai’s hiring a “major coup” for the distributor.

“Kevin has a great reputation, is well known, has a great rolodex, and has experience running a larger company,” said Estill. “It’s all positive.”

Having someone in the CEO position that has a strong familiarity with Canadian market will also be a positive, says Estill, adding he doesn’t expect any major changes right away as Murai takes the helm.

“Kevin knows he’s joining a highly successful company with good growth rates and good profitability, and he’s a very smart guy so I expect he’ll make changes gradually and thoughtfully,” said Estill. “I don’t see a radical change instantly.”

One of the things Synnex has been remarkably good at in the past, says Estill, is allowing Synnex Canada to run a successful regional operation.

“As CEO of Canada, what you need to do is get the appropriate resources applied, while at the same time you need to have the appropriate lack of meddling in a business. You need to have both,” said Estill. “I don’t see that changing any time soon. The key is if you have good numbers then people allow you to do your job, and give you the resources to do it well.”

As a former Ingram Micro Canada executive, IT Xchange Group global vice-president Dave Walsh has worked with Murai in the past and says he has a phenomenal operations and finance mind.

“I think that will play very well against the backdrop of a Synnex-based model,” said Walsh. “I don’t know if it would play as well against a true value creation model, which is what some of the business units at Synnex have been attempting to build and develop.”

Walsh says Murai’s strength is really in broadline distribution, and the highest efficiencies and key performance indicators of a logistics-focused engine.

“Synnex of late, with their technology solutions group and their consumer electronics play, has tended to try to look a little more like an Ingram Micro, so perhaps that’s one of the reasons for the fit (with Murai),” said Walsh. “In the distribution and logistics environment he is phenomenally skilled from my viewpoint, and I have a great deal of respect for him from that perspective.”