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Comdisco names new chief executive

The technology services provider says it has tapped seasoned corporate executive Norman Blake as its new president and chief executive officer.

Technology services provider Comdisco said Wednesday that it has tapped seasoned corporate executive Norman Blake as its new president and chief executive officer.

The company, based in Rosemont, Ill., said that Blake, 59, takes over the top post immediately and replaces Philip Hewes, who has served as interim president and chief executive since December. Hewes stepped in for former CEO Nicholas Pontikes, who resigned from the company after proposing that the board recruit a more experienced leader.

Hewes, a longtime Comdisco employee, will continue as a member of both senior management and the company's board.

Blake joins Comdisco at a challenging time. The company has been struggling to recover from a series of recent setbacks including the shutdown of its managed network services business, an executive management shuffle and the write-off last October of its telecommunications subsidiary, Prism Communications Services.

Despite posting better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, the company last month said it was disappointed with the performance of its technology services division. Comdisco said that during the quarter it experienced larger-than-expected costs in technology services because of investments made in its Web services business and losses tied to its network services business.

The company recently exited the tough market for managed network services, primarily because its unit had not been growing as projected and no longer fit the company's strategy. Comdisco at the time acknowledged that it had been facing tough competition from larger providers that had the advantage in size and capabilities of offering the same services at lower prices.

Blake, who has had more than three decades of senior management experience and has led several businesses into megamerger deals such as Promus Hotel?s marriage to the Hilton Hotel chain, said one of his major objectives is helping Comdisco move to a new stage of profitable growth.

Gartner analysts Adam Couture and Eric Goodness say Norman Blake, the new chairman, president and CEO of Comdisco, takes the helm of the troubled company at a time when it has already done a great deal to straighten itself out.

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"My immediate priorities are to focus intensely on delivering the highest value to our customers and to capitalizing on those market opportunities where we can most effectively deploy our strengths," Blake said in a statement.

Following his stint as CEO of Promus Hotel, Blake held the chief executive spot at USF&G and led the company to its merger with the St. Paul Companies. Blake, who has also served in executive leadership roles at Heller International and General Electric, recently resigned as chief executive officer and secretary general of the United States Olympic Committee. He served in that role from February to October 2000.

In recent weeks, shares of Comdisco have been flirting with a 52-week low of $10.12, hovering around $11 per share. Comdisco?s shares this month shed nearly 30 percent.