Detroit April 18, 2001 The board of directors for auto industry e-marketplace Covisint today named e-commerce veteran Kevin English as chairman, president and CEO.
The appointment ends more than a year of uncertainty surrounding the top spot at Covisint, which was formed in February 2000 by a coalition of the Big Three automakers, joined by Nissan/Renault. e-Commerce analysts had questioned whether anyone would be willing to take on the challenge of getting competing auto industry behemoths to play nice together.
English, who is taking over from acting Covisint CEO Rico Digirolamo, reportedly held off signing onto the industry sponsored marketplace until the board agreed to name him chairman as well as CEO. He will need that additional leverage to manage Covisint effectively and to keep the various factions on Covisint's board in check, according to Kevin Prouty, research director for manufacturing strategies at Boston-based technology consultancy AMR Research. "The new CEO's main task now is to make Covisint efficient and to keep the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] at bay while Covisint gets its value message out to the general supplier community."
Gale Daikoku, senior research analyst with consulting firm Gartner, noted that English comes not from an automotive industry background but from the technology-investment world. English, 48, was previously the managing director and CEO for e-commerce at investment banking firm Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). During his tenure there, he created a Web-enabled wealth-management business that delivered Wall Street products and services to affluent investors.
Prior to joining CSFB in 1999, English was chairman and CEO for TheStreet.com, a publicly traded Internet information hub for financial market news and analysis.
Daikoku speculated that, given English's background, Covisint might be tapping him to identify investment opportunities or craft partnerships, or it could be that the board was simply looking for a neutral outsider to lead the e-marketplace.
In a conference call for the announcement of the appointment, English said Covisint's priorities were customer acquisition, product development and internal execution. AMR's Prouty said English must deliver on all three to ensure Covisint's success.
The appointment, coming so long after the e-marketplace's announcement, could indicate that Covisint is preparing to enter a more public phase of its development. "Hopefully, this means that they can move aggressively forward with the vision of getting Covisint launched and adding value to the automotive value chain," Gartner's Daikoku said.
In addition to his experience at CSFB and TheStreet.com, English had been vice president and general manager of Nexis Enterprise Group, and he served in a variety of assignments with that firm's parent company, Reed Elsevier, including vice president of sales and marketing for Lexis-Nexis.
English has more than two decades of senior executive management experience with additional technology companies such as Computervision, Aries Technology, Jupiter Technology, Control Data and Xerox. He is a 1975 graduate of Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.