Borders loses chief of strategy ahead of online project

No change in plans to launch its own website, says Borders spokeswoman

Borders Group says that Cedric “Rick” Vanzura, the company’s executive vice president for emerging business and technology and chief strategy officer, has resigned. The company has eliminated his position.

In March, Borders announced it had broken its ties with Amazon.com and planned to launch its own e-commerce website early next year. The alliance between Borders and Amazon began in 2001.

“There’s no change in our plans to launch our own website, which we’ve targeted to Q1 2008, so we’re on track with that,” says Anne Roman, a Borders spokeswoman. “That has been spearheaded partially by Rick, who will continue to transition [the launch].”

However, Roman says the website project has been led internally by Kevin Ertell, vice president of e-business, who will remain in that role.

“He’s a leader on that project, so there’s consistency with Kevin, and the position of chief strategy officer is less important now that the plan has been developed and the individual initiatives are being carried out within the business units, such as Kevin’s business unit enacting the web strategy,” Roman says.

Although Vanzura’s resignation as an executive officer is effective immediately, he will leave his position as chief strategy officer in September, after the arrival of Borders’ new CIO, Susan Harwood. Harwood will also assume Vanzura’s responsibilities.

“Rick has been an integral part of our management team and has made many important contributions to the company, including a key role in development of our strategic plan for the future, [and] the launching of our e-business,” Borders CEO George Jones said in a statement. “Now that the strategic plan is set and its initiatives are being executed within the individual business units, Rick and I agree that this is a logical time for him to transition away from his strategic duties.”

However, when Borders announced its decision to cut ties with Amazon in March, Vanzura said the new CIO would report to him.

“To go back in history prior to when we engaged with Amazon, I had run Borders.com,” he said. “And I was fully supportive of the decision at the time, because we appreciated that to build a really solid website and [online] presence was a very expensive and complicated operation.”

At the time, Vanzura said several conditions made it a better environment for Borders to take control of its online operations.

“One [thing] is technology costs have gone significantly down in the internet while capabilities have gone up and the availability of solid people to run these operations has gotten stronger,” he said in March.

Vanzura also noted at the time that Borders was planning to name a new CIO because the former CIO, Fred Johnson, had left the company several months earlier. At that time, Vanzura said the company’s long-term direction for IT would be set in conjunction with new CIO, who would report to him.

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