Why I’m Leaving Rackspace

This morning, I announced to my fellow Rackers the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make: I’m leaving the company that I love, where I’ve worked for the past decade and made lifelong friends, and where it’s been my honor to serve as CEO.

My friend Jeff Cotten, now Rackspace president, will step up as interim CEO. Our board has launched a search for a long-term CEO, and it considers Jeff a strong candidate for that position.

Kelley Freeman, a local author who has worked as a coach to some of our executives, observes that “the last act of leading is leaving.” What he means, in the context of a CEO, is that when you’ve taken your company as far as you can, given your particular strengths and skills, it’s time to let someone else with different strengths step up and take it farther.

That’s how I feel today. I’m proud to have led Rackspace through a hinge in its history, as we seized the leadership of the young and fast-growing market for managed cloud services, and as we went private under the ownership of Apollo Global Management and its partners. We recently reported strong fourth-quarter results to our bond and debt holders. And 2017 is shaping up to be even stronger, as we’re exceeding almost all of the financial targets we established with Apollo and our board.

I know I’m leaving the company in good hands, with Jeff as its new leader, and a strong bench of leaders around him. He and I have been friends and colleagues since we worked together at EDS. I’m proud to have recruited him to Rackspace. Over the past eight years, he has held a series of increasingly challenging leadership roles across key areas of the company, from customer support to sales and new business development. He spent several years based in London and Zurich, growing our international business, which now produces about a third of our $2.1 billion in annual revenue. And he played a pivotal role in developing and scaling our new services for customers who want us to run workloads for them on the infrastructure of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure — and, in the near future, on the Google Cloud Platform. These new services are market leading, and our customers are expressing their love for them through rapid growth and high Net Promoter Scores.

In each of his roles, Jeff has inspired his teams to succeed. He commands deep respect throughout Rackspace. I leave with confidence that he and a new generation of Rackspace leaders will bring fresh eyes to the company’s challenges and opportunities.

What’s next for me? I’m going to become the CEO of a smaller private company. It’s based in another city. It does not compete with Rackspace. I’ll be able to talk more specifically about it in a couple of weeks, but for now let me just say that it’s about the size Rackspace was when I started here 10 years ago — and it’s growing about as rapidly. It’s using cloud technologies to disrupt what has been a very low-tech industry. The company is going through growing pains and needs a CEO who has been through those challenges before.

This opportunity fits my strengths and skills, and I think it will provide a reinvigorating change. This new job, at a smaller company, will also give me more control over my schedule and more time with my kids before the two oldest, who are now in high school, leave home for college.

I’ll miss Rackspace and the Rackers I love, and my family and I will miss San Antonio. But we plan to stay in touch with the great friends we’ve made here. We’ll always be fans of the city and the Spurs and Rackspace. And we’ll be watching and applauding all three from afar.

Go, Rackspace, Go!


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