February 24, 2011, 11:53 AM

Sears hands the keys to a tech veteran

Lou D’Ambrosia takes over as CEO of the multichannel retailer.

Lead Photo

Lou D’Ambrosia

After three years of searching, Sears Holdings Corp. has a new CEO, Lou D’Ambrosia.  He brings what the multichannel retailer considers a significant technical background to the job. Previously, he was CEO of Avaya Inc., a global telecommunications company, from 2006 to 2008 but stepped down for medical reasons.  Prior to joining Avaya in 2002, he spent 16 years at IBM; his last job there was as vice president of worldwide sales, marketing and strategy for IBM Software Group.

Sears, No. 8 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, said today his appointment represents a conscious choice to select someone with a strong technical background to lead the company through an evolving retail landscape. 

The choice of D’Ambrosia, combined with the company’s August appointment of interactive marketing veteran David Friedman as head of marketing, is an unambiguous indication that the company is focused on the web moving forward, says a Sears spokesman.  “It definitely shows the direction of the future for our company,” he says.

"From the beginning of our CEO search, we were determined to find a leader with information and technology experience who could catalyze the transformation of our portfolio of businesses in the context of the evolution of the retail industry that is occurring more broadly,” says Sears chairman Edward Lampert

Over the last six months, D'Ambrosio has worked as a consultant to Sears’ board of directors.  “Having spent the last several months working with Eddie, the board and management, I have been impressed with the organization's assets and its potential going forward,” D’Ambrosia says. “While change and re-invention are inevitable, the opportunity in front of us is compelling and exciting.”  D’Ambrosia will succeed W. Bruce Johnson, who has served as interim CEO since 2008.

Sears lately has been trying to boost its e-commerce offerings. In December, for instance, the retailer launched Alphaline Entertainment, a  service that enables consumers to rent or buy movies and TV shows online and then download them to watch on their TVs or personal computers. Before Thanksgiving, Sears introduced a program that allows customers who pay $79 annually to receive free standard shipping on all purchases from the Sears or Kmart e-commerce sites. In doing so, Sears joined a growing number of retailers trying to compete with a similar program from Amazon called Amazon Prime.

Ironically, the announcement of a technology veteran as CEO coincided with outages on two of the retailer’s e-commerce sites. Making enhancements to Sears.com and Kmart.com caused the sites to crash last night for about an hour, says the retailer and web site monitoring firm Pingdom. The outage began at 7:12 p.m. Central time. Visitors to the sites saw “Access Denied – You don’t have permission to access http://www.sears.com/ on this server.”

Parvez Patel, head of online marketing for Sears, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2011 in a session entitled "How I found my best keywords."

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