Cisco's Freemantle calls Australia home

There comes a time in every man's life when its time to move on or, in this case, back. For Richard Freemantle, former Cisco Australia managing director, that time is now.

On January 4, 1999, one of the IT industry's most venerable networking figures is resuming work Down Under as Cisco's Sydney-based vice president of Asia Pacific.

Freemantle is currently Cisco's vice president EMEA [Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand], northern operations, covering Britain, Africa and the "Nordic countries" of Europe.

Freemantle, well known for being 'employee number one' in Australia, worked here for five years from 1990 after starting one of the first LAN integration companies, Network Solutions, in 1984 with Lionel Singer.

Speaking from London, Freemantle told ComputerWorld he has since pulled Cisco's European operation out of the financial doldrums. While it once represented around 22 per cent of Cisco operations worldwide, the figure now stands at 29 per cent. At the time, Cisco was "certainly experiencing significant growing pains" in the region, he said.

Freemantle reports growth has trebled and the region now supports 650 Cisco staffers.

But after three years in Europe, it is time to come home and Freemantle hopes to bring his recipe for success to the troubled Asian markets.

With operations in almost every Asian country, Freemantle is looking for significant growth. "I refuse to believe that all the entrepreneurial spirit of the Asian nations disappeared over night," he said.

"My objective perhaps could be to get Asia's proportion of the overall revenue back to the levels that is was a couple of years ago where it was in the low teens."

Significantly, Freemantle's new post will see some changes at the local level as the Australian and New Zealand operations are to become financially integrated with Cisco's Asian business.

"Australia has not been part of Asia, from an organisational point of view, at all," he said.

As for local management shuffles, he does not anticipate any significant changes in the short term.

Despite fervent industry speculation, Gary Jackson's role as Cisco's Australian managing director appears secure. When asked if Jackson's role will change with his arrival, he replied: "I could be very controversial and say 'possibly', but I won't."

Instead, he described Jackson's work as "truly outstanding". However, he explained: "I think Gary's talents are such that I can see a time where he had responsibility for more than just Australia."

So come January 1999, Freemantle will hit the trail to develop more partnerships, minority positions or company acquisitions in the region.

What is his main objective? Spending time with customers, or "the sharp end" of Cisco's business. "To do that from a nice place like Sydney is really quite exciting."

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