Cabletron CEO calls it a day

Craig Benson, co-founder and CEO of Cabletron Systems Inc., resigned last month, handing the reins of the Rochester, N.H.-based internetworking company over to Piyush Patel, former CEO of YAGO Systems.

Patel is currently Cabletron’s senior vice-president of worldwide engineering and he moved to the company after Cabletron’s acquisition of router start-up YAGO last year. Patel is largely responsible for guiding Cabletron’s move into the service provider market and increasing its profile as a Layer 3 switch contender.

Departing CEO Benson co-founded Cabletron as a cabling company in a New England garage in 1983 with Robert Levine, and the two men’s brash style quickly garnered them the reputation of being “the bad boys of networking”. Benson and Levine grew the company to US$1.4 billion in annual sales, but Cabletron has been stuck at that figure for the past few years.

Benson’s resignation comes two years after Levine’s own departure as company chairman in 1997. With both co-founders no longer leading the company, at least one industry watcher has begun speculating that Cabletron may be heading for the auction block, a move vigorously opposed by Benson and Levine in the past.

“I think overall [Benson’s departure] is good,” said Craig Johnson, principal at the PITA Group in Portland, Ore. “I think the question now becomes, does this mean that they’re getting set up to sell the company? Without a strategic partner, what is it that they’re actually going to try and do?”

In a statement, new Cabletron CEO Patel said his goal is to “expand Cabletron’s leadership in the enterprise and aggressively expand our efforts in hot new growth markets, including service providers and the market for converged voice, video and data networking solutions.

“I share Craig’s passion for the customer and will continue the growth initiatives we outlined under Project Ignition,” Patel stated, referring to a plan unveiled in March by Cabletron to streamline company operations, reduce costs and stimulate revenue growth. As part of Project Ignition, Cabletron outsourced its manufacturing operations to Toronto-based electronics company Celestica Inc.

“Cabletron has all the ingredients for future success, including an extremely loyal customer base, talented employees and award-winning technologies,” Patel continued.

Just days after Benson announced his resignation, two other top Cabletron officials resigned. A company spokesperson said John D’Auguste, president of operations, and Allan Finch, vice-president of worldwide marketing, are both leaving to pursue other business opportunities. Another source close to the company told an IDG News Service reporter that D’Auguste’s real reason for leaving was he was unhappy that Patel, who reported to him, beat him for the top spot.

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