Lenovo CEO contradicts own staff, tries to dodge journalists

By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: Lenovo president and CEO Bill Amelia proved he is woefully out of touch with his own senior staff yesterday when he contradicted his own vice president at a propaganda event in Sydney.

Furthermore, in an ironic allusion to the Beijing Olympics, for which Lenovo was a major sponsor, a planned Q&A session was cancelled without notice and journalists were asked to filter questions to the CEO through a public relations company.

When Amelia finally assented to hold an interview, he rejected the notion that Lenovo was actively distancing itself from its Chinese roots in certain markets, in particular, the United States. This is despite Lenovo vice president (brand management) Glen Gilbert saying in July that, “in the [United States], we will not be making direct mention of that [Lenovo’s Chinese heritage]”.

At the time, Lenovo’s Asia Pacific office confirmed the strategy, though it clarified that this branding would not apply to Australia. Rather, Lenovo is actively promoting itself as a “global” company, evidenced by relocating large parts of its head office to North Carolina.

Speaking at yesterday’s event, Amelia continually referenced this global ethos, promoting slogans such as “made everywhere”, as opposed to the more factually correct “made in China”. To highlight this visually, slides were shown to assembled journalists, customers and resellers featuring the flags of major first world countries.

Speaking directly to Current.com.au, Amelia rejected Gilbert’s assertion regarding Lenovo’s brand strategy and flatly denied that such comments had ever been made. When told that the comments had been widely reported, in newspapers including the New York Times, Amelia remained adamant that no strategy was in place and that he had no knowledge of such articles.

Although the media was invited to attend yesterday’s event, there was a certain evasiveness shown toward journalists. There was no Q&A session following Amelia’s presentation, which is a basic requirement of media events, and when asked for an interview with Amelia, Current.com.au was originally told it may not be possible.

A freelance media relations officer, hired independently of Lenovo’s local public relations firm, then asked Current.com.au what questions were to be put to Amelia. After refusing to have questions filtered through public relations, Amelia eventually availed himself for an interview.

If anything, the considerable trouble it took to speak to Amelia is evidence that Lenovo is indeed not distancing itself from China. Lenovo’s largest shareholder, through holding companies, is the Chinese Government, an all-pervasive, unelected communist regime that places strict regulations on journalists and does not allow for freedom of the press.  

The original article on Current.com.au can be viewed here.

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