Diversification Will Be Xerox CEO John Visentin’s Legacy
He drove the company to embrace innovation to expand beyond print
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On June 29, Xerox announced the unexpected passing of its Vice Chairman and CEO John Visentin due to complications from an ongoing illness. While Visentin’s tenure was relatively short (he joined the company in May 2018), his influence will be felt at the company for years to come.
Visentin took over the helm during a tumultuous time when the company was at a crossroads. His predecessor, Jeff Jacobson, had all but inked a deal to sell Xerox to longtime partner FUJIFILM Holdings Corporation (FUJIFILM later wound up with 100% of the two companies’ joint venture, Fuji Xerox.) Activist investors led by Carl Icahn balked at the sale, believing the price did not reflect Xerox’s full potential, and Jacobson was forced to step aside. Enter Visentin, who took over a company facing a billion-dollar lawsuit from a spurned and bitter key supplier, low morale, high costs, and a contracting market.
Visentin had to make some tough choices and may not be remembered fondly by some Xerox veterans whose roles were made superfluous by the company’s internal restructuring. But his “One Boat, One Team” call to action and other initiatives put Xerox back on a growth path. In fact, XRX was the top-performing tech stock of 2019. Xerox sought to use that leverage to acquire the much larger HP Inc.
Unfortunately, Visentin did not get to enjoy that high tide for long. The HP deal (which had been rejected by the HP board) was ultimately scuttled by the arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020. As with most vendors serving the office print market, Xerox was forced into survival mode as sales took a hit during the pandemic and resultant supply-chain shortages. But the cost-cutting Visentin had overseen allowed the company to weather the storm financially, and Xerox maintained positive cash flow in every quarter.
Steering the company through two major crises in four years would be accomplishment enough. But Visentin’s true legacy will prove to be diversifying Xerox into markets outside of print. Using the revenue generated by the (now) growing production and office print businesses, Visentin pushed Xerox out of its comfort zone and into promising new markets. As we detailed in our coverage of the company’s investor day earlier this year, Xerox has invested heavily in augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) with its CareAR subsidiary, additive manufacturing, and all manner of disruptive technologies developed in-house and within “incubator” partner companies under the auspices of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) division.
For the time being, the company’s dynamic President and COO Steve Bandrowczak is serving as Interim CEO. Visentin has left Bandrowczak—and whoever winds up being the new CEO—a solid foundation as Xerox moves into the future.