Enrico Pesatori: Will he ever be No.1?

As Compaq continues its makeover, the industry veteran climbs higer up the org chart.

Updated June 17, 11:29 AM PT

Call him the ultimate No. 2.

Enrico Pesatori, whose career has included senior tours of duty at Olivetti, Zenith Data Systems, Digital Equipment Corp. and Tandem Computers, emerged on Thursday as a big winner in Compaq Computer Corp.'s (NYSE:CPQ) continuing reorganization.

Once the heir-apparent at Digital Equipment, Pesatori is heading the company's new Enterprise Solutions and Services Group, created by combining the enterprise and services organizations.

The Enterprise Solutions and Services Group, the largest of three new business units, will peddle Compaq's NonStop eBusiness solutions, which include both products and services.

On Compaq's new org chart, Pesatori thus becomes the No. 2 executive with operational responsibilities behind Michael Capellas, who is the acting chief operating officer.

Still, it's unlikely that Pesatori, who had been the No. 2 executive at Digital before he was ousted in 1996, will be considered as a replacement for Eckhard Pfeiffer, who was ousted as chief executive in April.

Blow up
Pesatori, an elegant Italian national who wanted the top job at Digital, oversaw the company's entry into the PC business in 1993. But Pesatori's aggressive plans -- "No. 5 in '95" was the catch phrase -- blew up as the company's computer systems division wracked up huge losses. After losing an internal battle with Digital's chief financial officer, who argued that profitability should take precedence over market growth, Pesatori found himself out of a job by 1996.

But Pesatori, who spent 21 years working at Olivetti before joining Zenith, didn't spend much time in retirement. Later that year, he was hired by Tandem as president and chief operating officer, again the No. 2 executive -- this time behind CEO Roel Pieper.

Pesatori, who is returning from a business trip to Europe, was not immediately available, according to Compaq.

Janet Waxman, an analyst with IDC, said recently that Pesatori's elevation -- which began shortly after Pfeifer's departure -- should not be construed as a clue to the board of directors' thinking about a replacement CEO.

No. 2 before No. 1
"It's a little strange to appoint a No. 2 before they appoint a No. 1," said Waxman, who worked at Digital Equipment during Pesatori's tenure. "Still, I can't say, based on Pesatori's track record, that he was part of the winning team."

Another former Digital executive, Tony Amico, suggested that the departure from Compaq of ex-DEC officials like John Rose and John Rando, who used to head up services, pointed up a larger issue that would weigh against Pesatori's further climb.

"Maybe he has the mindset to do the job, but I think there's culture clashes between the old Digital people and the veterans at Compaq," said Amico. "