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3/4/2003
02:07 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Why Webby Won't Make It To The Circus

'I'm comfortable and confident Covisint is strategically on track.'

This week Dave Bent starts his new job as senior VP and CIO at United Stationers in Chicago. United Stationers is one of the largest distributors of office supplies in the United States ($4 billion annual revenue), with 15,000 resellers of 40,000 products from 500 manufacturers. "It looks like a great challenge and is clearly a company that regards information as one of its most important assets," says Bent, pointing to the company's IT- pedigreed board: Max Hopper of Sabre Airline system fame and Alex Zoghlin, former chief technology officer at Orbitz. Bent had been CIO of Acterna, a telecom products provider, and before that CIO of Visteon Automotive Systems (and InformationWeek Chief of the Year in 1999).

Last week, Covisint said that Harold Kutner, the longtime General Motors purchasing chief who helped forge the auto industry's online exchange, would step down as CEO and chairman. He's being replaced by Bruce Swift, formerly Covisint's president and chief operating officer, and before that head of purchasing for Ford Europe. Kutner, who's retiring, was coaxed out of an earlier retirement to take the Covisint CEO spot when Kevin English resigned last year as president, CEO, and chairman. Kutner was instrumental in getting Ford and DaimlerChrysler to sign on with GM to create Covisint in 2000. Covisint claims to have more than 77,000 users representing more than 15,000 companies.

President Bush last week tapped Lucent Technologies CEO Patricia Russo to join a panel looking at ways to better secure the nation's telecommunications infrastructure. The National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee provides the president with analysis and recommendations to make telecommunications infrastructure better able to withstand disasters. Other members include execs from Motorola, SBC Communications, and Verizon. Formed by President Reagan in 1982, the committee took on greater significance after Sept. 11.

The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences said last week it would conduct its best-in-class Web-site awards ceremony, the seventh annual Webby Awards, online rather than in San Francisco on June 5. Since the nominations were announced three weeks ago, a "significant number" of nominees, who are mostly from outside the San Francisco Bay area, have expressed concerns about traveling at this time, says Maya Draisin, executive director of the academy. The awards ceremony had been scheduled for Teatro ZinZanni, a circus-style dinner show performed in a large tent in San Francisco's Embarcadero. Draisin says a portion of the tickets purchased for the Webby Awards will be donated to local charities.

And people are passing this up? (n.b.: They didn't ask me to attend.) There's something about clowns and an elegant dinner that just seem to go together. Just like your industry tip and my in-box, jsoat@cmp.com, or voice mail: 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about online exchanges, the telecom infrastructure, or how the Web resembles a three-ring circus, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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