The Shoulders Of A Giant

By Graham Weston

By now, many of you have read that Lanham Napier is retiring as CEO of Rackspace, after 14 years with the company. This is a bittersweet day — not just for him, but for all the Rackers and customers and partners and shareholders who have worked with him and have been inspired by him over the years. We will miss Lanham’s leadership and his infectious, go-get-‘em grin. But today we should celebrate his contributions to our great company. Lanham has led us from a tiny San Antonio startup to a global leader in cloud computing with $1.5 billion in annual sales, more than 5,000 Rackers working on five continents, and more than 200,000 business customers in 120 countries. What we build from here, we will build on the shoulders of a giant.

Lanham has been a vital part of our success from the time he joined the company in April 2000. The founders, including me, were a motley crew — three recent college grads and a couple of real-estate entrepreneurs. We had a great idea, but we needed lots of help to realize its potential. I think of the startup that we launched as Rackspace 1.0. Then we had the good fortune to recruit Lanham, along with Lew Moorman and David Bryce. They were the heart of Rackspace 2.0. They gave us sound financial management, decisive and visionary leadership, and — above all else — a commitment to Fanatical Support.

Every Racker has contributed to this company’s accomplishments, but our level of success would not have been possible without Lanham. We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

It’s been said that leaders of tech companies live and age in dog years. If that’s true, Lanham has been with us for the equivalent of 98 trips around the sun. He has given us his all. So, while we will miss seeing him in the halls each day, we respect his decision to step down and turn his attention to other interests in his life, and new adventures.

I am honored and excited to step in as CEO at this stage of the company’s growth, after having last held the job from 1999 to 2006. My taking the reins as successor to Lanham will give our board all the time it needs to conduct a careful, thorough search to find the right CEO for the next decade. This is a critical year in our history, so I plan to aggressively lead us toward our future as one of the clear leaders of the emerging cloud market — an opportunity that I view as one of the biggest in the history of business. I know that our best days lie ahead, and I’m eager to lead Rackspace toward its bright future.

As Lanham has emphasized, a new wave of mainstream businesses is just beginning to move to the hybrid cloud, and those customers will want much more than the do-it-yourself solution offered by other cloud providers. Those customers will want and need Fanatical Support, specialized expertise, and a broad portfolio of services that lets them find the best fit for their specific needs.

As I look at this coming wave of adoption, I see an even larger opportunity for Rackspace than I saw when we launched the company 15 years ago.

I’m grateful that Lanham has agreed to stick around for several months to assist me and the leadership team through this transition. I am also pleased to partner with Taylor Rhodes in his new role as president. He is a proven leader who has inspired his teams to achieve impressive results through a wide variety of assignments at Rackspace, in the U.S. and abroad — most recently as our chief customer officer.

As Taylor understands well, the 200,000-plus customers that we serve today know that they can find cheaper hosting with a few keystrokes. But they choose Rackspace because they know that they get better value from our Fanatical Support, hybrid cloud portfolio, and expertise in open and standard technologies. We believe that customers in the coming wave of mainstream cloud adoption will discover the same value proposition.

In 2014, we will further differentiate our business. We will expand and make known our value as a company of specialists. We will evolve Fanatical Support to include expertise in more of the complex applications that customers must leverage to exploit opportunities in areas such as big data and digital marketing. We will help customers use the hybrid cloud to run each of their applications where it runs best. We will win as we always have — by playing our game and winning over one delighted customer at a time. That’s Lanham’s legacy, and it’s one we intend to build upon, starting today.

Graham Weston is a co-founder of Rackspace and serves as Chairman and CEO.

Graham Weston is one of the founders of Rackspace and served as Chairman of the Board. Born and raised in the San Antonio area, Graham from an early age saw entrepreneurial opportunities in everything around him. He launched his first business venture as a seventh grader, marketing organic pork in newspaper ads that read "Go Hog Wild!" In high school, he built another business that took photos at livestock shows and sold them to contestants. Click here to learn more about Graham.


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