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Digital's Claflin resigns, the first to go

A number of Digital's management team are expected to exit as the high tech dinosaur is incorporated into Compaq.

Bruce Claflin, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Digital Equipment, today said he would step down after the company merges with Compaq, but he's not likely to be the last executive to depart.

A number of Digital's management team are expected to exit as the high tech dinosaur is incorporated into the Houston, Texas-based computer vendor. The merger is also expected to lead to substantial layoffs, especially within Digital, because of divisional overlap.

But Claflin's announcement comes as something of a surprise in that he was routinely considered the company's No. 2 man behind chief executive Robert Palmer, and continually received praise from industry observers for his management performance.

"From a management perspective, he was one of the crown jewels," said Chris Christiansen, an analyst at International Data Corporation.

Claflin's job as head of all hardware sales at Digital appears on the fast track toward elimination because of the pending merger. John Rose, senior vice president for enterprise sales at Compaq, is expected to take over all enterprise computing sales once the merger is completed, said sources, a move that would reduce Claflin's role.

Claflin controls workstation and server sales and has jurisdiction over Digital's PC division. Compaq is also expected to begin to dismantle the Digital PC division soon after the merger is completed.

"My inclination is that this is one of the signs that Compaq is in charge," said Brett Rekas, computing analyst with BancAmerica Robertson Stephens.

In a prepared statement, Claflin said that he will leave to avoid relocating his family to Houston. "High-level discussions have been held concerning my role in the new company's senior management team. Compaq was clearly interested in defining a role I could play and I was equally interested in exploring ways I could contribute to Compaq's success. It became clear however, that any opportunities to actively participate in Compaq's senior management for me would have to be based in Houston."

Both Claflin and Digital said that he would help the companies in the transition process.

Claflin rose to prominence in the industry as the manager of IBM's ThinkPad division, said Kim Brown, an analyst at Dataquest. He took over Digital's ailing PC division approximately three years ago.

"He turned the tide from horrendous to neutral," Brown said. Seen as a strong figure in the industry, Clafin may well pop up as a CEO in the future, Brown added.

Brown and other also predicted that Digital's PC division will be one of the first casualties of the merger, which will be followed with layoffs. "There are going to be unbelievable layoffs," he said.