Leaving Bell Aliant CEO to lead data centre services firm

Karen Sheriff, retiring chief executive officer of Bell Aliant, will be leading Q9 Networks, one of Canada’s fastest growing data centre services firms.

The board of directors of Q9 announced that Sheriff will assume her new role as CEO of the company on January 5, 2015. She replaces Paul Sharpe, current CEO of Q9.

Sharpe will be leaving the company but has agreed to remain through early 2015 “to ensure a seamless transition,” according to Q9.

While some had speculated that Sheriff would take the Manitoba Telecom Services CEO role when the company’s CEO, Pierre Blouin leaves at the end of the year, MTS recently announced the appointment of Jay Forbes as its new CEO. Interestingly, Forbes was Sheriff’s predecessor as Aliant’s CEO.

Sheriff has been president and CEO of Bell Aliant (TSE: BA) since 2008. She was instrumental in transforming the Halfix-based telecom firm with annual revenues of $2.8 billion into an “innovative, efficient and highly successful competitor” in North America according to a statement from the company.

“We see this move as potentially positive for BCE’s enterprise strategy,” according to Dvai Ghose, managing director and head of research at Canaccord Genuity.

Prior to joining Bell Aliant, Sheriff was president of Bell Canada’s small and medium size business unit and has experience in the enterprise market. Ghose said this experience will serve Q9 well even though the firm’s customers are generally larger blue chip companies.

“More importantly, we believe that Sheriff could play a significant role in integrating Q9 into BCE if BCE buys out its equity partners, as we assume over time,” he added.

Ghose also believes Sheriff will maintain a relationship with Bell Canada and BCE as BCE owns 35 per cent of Q9.

Q9 is a leading provider of outsourced data centre infrastructure. It has 14 high-availability data centres spread out across Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. The company serves both public and private sectors.  It is owned by a group of investors that includes BCE Inc., the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Providence Equity Partners and Madison Dearborn Partners LLC.

Sheriff led Bell Alliant’s construction of its broadband fibre network and data centre centres across Atlantic Canada. She is recognized as one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEOs by the Atlantic Business magazine and named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence by Canadian Women in Communications and Technology association.

“Karen Sheriff is a top-tier executive renowned for her strategic leadership in technology and service innovation that delivers clear benefits to customers,” said Bogdan Cenanovic, chair of Q9. “Karen knows the data business and she knows how to make great companies even better.”

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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