During the recent NBA draft, we heard again and again the two main criteria that teams used to choose their next new players. Some went for the best athlete available. Others sought to fill a specific need: say, a point guard who can run the offense. Only a few teams, in basketball or business, are lucky enough to find players who fit both descriptions. We at Rackspace are one of those teams.
I’m pleased to announce that we have recruited a key new player in Louis Alterman, who will serve as our new chief financial officer. He held the same position at EarthLink when I served as CEO.
Louis is one of the best business athletes I’ve had the good fortune to work with during my 30-year career. He excels as a leader not only in finance, but also in strategy, operations, M&A and sales. When we worked together for three years at EarthLink, he took the initiative to meet frequently with key customers and prospects, as well as analysts and investors. He helped our sales teams close deals and helped refine our operational metrics and processes. And he has such a friendly, collegial manner that the teams welcomed his help.
Louis also brings specific skills and experiences that will benefit Rackspace at this stage of our journey. He joined EarthLink in 2003, nine years after its founding as a pioneer in Internet access. EarthLink’s competitive environment was changing rapidly. It needed to evolve its products and adopt more operational discipline and data-based decision making. Louis helped drive that process. And he did so in a way that was always consistent with the company’s values and culture. During our years working together, EarthLink achieved not only financial success but also low employee turnover and high engagement scores, especially in Louis’s department.
After EarthLink merged with Windstream early this year, Louis received some very appealing CEO and CFO offers, including from companies much larger than Rackspace. But once we reached out to him, he knew this was where he wanted to work. I naturally assumed that the main draw was the chance to work with me again — but he set me straight.
“Joe is part of the attraction, but only one part,” Louis says. “I’m proud to be a Racker. I love the values and culture at Rackspace, the way it takes care of Rackers as well as customers, and the huge opportunity that it faces. I think the challenges fit well with my experiences, in terms of improving various processes while also taking care to reinforce the culture. The moment I stepped into the Castle, I could feel the energy and the engagement. And I really liked the Rackers I met. So, sorry Joe. It’s not just you.”
Born and reared in Atlanta, Louis grew up in an entrepreneurial family where his parents owned and ran a restaurant and catering business for 24 years, and his grandparents founded a grocery chain that grew to more than 100 stores. Customer loyalty, employee engagement, and unit economics were standard fare in the dinner-table conversations of the Alterman family. Louis pitched into the family businesses by washing dishes, busing tables and bagging groceries.
Louis earned a bachelor’s degree in business and finance at the University of Georgia, and an MBA at Emory University. His first job was at BellSouth (now part of AT&T), where he taught himself Spanish (via tapes that he played on his car’s cassette player) so he could take on interesting assignments in Buenos Aires and Caracas.
He and his wife, Amy, can’t remember their first meeting, which is understandable considering that they were introduced as infants. They’ve been friends all their lives, as were their grandparents and parents. They attended different colleges, but got back together afterward, and will soon celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary (after recently celebrating Louis’s 40th birthday.) They are the parents of three young children, all of whom are active in sports.
Louis plays tennis and enjoys hot yoga. He is, alas, an Atlanta Hawks fan. But I think that someone as devoted to team play and fundamentals as Louis will be an easy convert to the Spurs. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Louis and welcoming him to San Antonio.