Rackspace Elevates 8-Year Racker Jeff Cotten to President

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Courtesy / Rackspace

Rackspace President Jeff Cotten

Rackspace announced Tuesday the promotion of Jeff Cotten to company president, its first significant personnel move since the managed cloud company went private in a $4.3 billion deal in November.

As president, Cotten will lead the company’s global sales team and international businesses as well as its fast-growing business providing support for Amazon Web Services, Rackspace Managed Security, and the company’s services for customers who run e-commerce and digital marketing solutions. He will assume the post Feb. 1.

“In every leadership role that we’ve given him, he has delivered expertise and support that customers couldn’t get anywhere else, all while inspiring industry-leading levels of engagement from the Rackers in his care,” CEO Taylor Rhodes said in a blog post announcing the promotion. “Jeff is uniquely qualified to serve as our president.”

Cotten, 39, is a native of Dallas and graduate of the University of Texas who came to Rackspace eight years ago from Electronic Data Systems (EDS).

“I loved the leadership of the company, even beyond Taylor,” Cotten said in an exclusive interview with the Rivard Report last week. “Lanham [Napier] was the CEO at the time, and it was a relatively midsize company with $750 million in revenue, and I loved the culture, I loved the people, and I loved what the company stood for.

“I loved that [Rackspace] was willing to sort of have a backbone and have a vision in this industry, and stick to it and do what’s right for people. Ultimately, I am a passionate people-leader. I very much believe in servant-leadership, and I could see that here in this company. And I absolutely believe in our formula, which is that if we create an impassioned workforce they will serve our customers well and that will, in turn, create shareholder value.”

Cotten said his promotion from within Rackspace sends a strong signal about the company’s commitment to San Antonio.

“The headquarters is absolutely going to stay here,” he said. “We wouldn’t be promoting employees if we didn’t intend to do that.”

Cotten began his career at Rackspace as a front-line manager and later built and led elements of the company’s U.S.-based enterprise and sales organizations. Most recently, he directed the company’s $550 million international business from its offices in London and Zurich.

Since returning to Rackspace headquarters in San Antonio last summer, Cotten has led the company’s fast-growing line of business that delivers expertise and what it calls “fanatical support” for customers who use the AWS cloud infrastructure. Rackspace is currently one of the top managed-service providers for AWS, with hundreds of engineers among its 6,100-person workforce who are certified as experts on the popular cloud platform.

With customers such as Sony, DirecTV, TD Bank, Domino’s Pizza, Razorfish, Digitas,  and more than half of the Fortune 100 global enterprises, Rackspace helps businesses navigate hosting and cloud computing technologies and tools.

Founded in 1998 by Graham Weston, Morris Miller, Dirk Elmendorf, Pat Condon and Richard Yoo, the tech startup went public in 2008. In November, the company went private again, acquired by New York-based private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC.

About 4,000 employees work at Rackspace's "Castle," its headquarters in a small suburban city located on San Antonio’s far-northwest side.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

About 4,000 employees work at Rackspace’s “Castle,” its modern headquarters located in a former shopping mall.

Cotten said his promotion comes after “a rather extensive interview process with Apollo.”

“Apollo sees that there is great talent in this company,” he said. “… They are not just going to bring in a bunch of outside leaders, which I think is probably one of the external views of what could happen here. The leadership team and this company is very much in control of its direction and where we’re headed.”

Also Tuesday, Rackspace announced other changes within its executive leadership:

  • Prashanth Chandrasekar will replace Cotten as general manager of the AWS business. Chandrasekar is a five-year Rackspace leader who launched the company’s industry-leading DevOps services.
  • Carla Pineyro Sublett, Rackspace chief marketing officer, will report directly to Rhodes. She previously reported to Alex Pinchev.
  • Pinchev is retiring as executive vice president and president of global sales and marketing following a period assisting with Cotten’s transition to president.

“Our opportunity is to become the IBM of the cloud era,” Cotten said. “Being that sort of iconic brand as a service provider is ultimately what I think our opportunity is. I had a phenomenal career at EDS and I am very passionate about trying to bring that here, because I think we are a good developer of talent, and we’re sort of hitting this stride now with the size we’ve become.”

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