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And then there were four…

While we’ve been reporting on Synnex/Merisel and EMJ since our debut in the fall of 1996, these companies have a long and distinguished history in Canada.

At one time Canada’s largest distributor, Merisel got its start in 1980 as Softsel Computer Products, Inc., a software distribution company based in California. Annual revenues had grown to $630 US in 1990 when Softsel merged with hardware distributor Microamerica, Inc., worth another a $526 million, to become Merisel. The ’90s saw the company soar to annual sales of $6 billion, followed by hard times that eventually saw the US hardware distribution business wound down and the Canadian subsidiary sold to Synnex in 2001.

Mitchell Martin will continue to run Synnex Canada while Jim Estill will look after both EMJ and the combined entity. Over the years a number of notables were at the helm of Merisel Canada, including Sue Miller, who went on to head Merisel Europe and Compaq Canada. Ron Smith, who came to the distributor from a 32-year career in the IT industry and stints at NCR and Unisys, eventually went on to head the US parent. And Tom Reeves, who headed the distributor after Miller and prior to Smith before moving over to Beamscope Canada.

Synnex also got its start in 1980 as a distributor and contract assembler, originally called Compac Microelectronics, becoming Synnex Information Technologies, Inc. in 1994. With facilities around the world, is has 1,600 employees and fiscal 2003 revenues of $4.1 billion. Robert Huang is founder, president and CEO. In addition to Martin in Canada, his executive team includes Peter Larocque and John Paget.

Like Synnex — but unlike Merisel — Guelph-based EMJ Data Systems Ltd. has always had one boss. Estill founded the company in 1979, and in addition to being recognized one of Canada’s top 50 best managed companies EMJ is just weeks away from 100 consecutive profitable quarters. With last year’s acquisition of Daisytek (Canada) Inc. EMJ was well on the way to $500 million in revenues prior to the acquisition by Synnex.

Both distributors are doing business with a number of the same vendors, including Acer, APC, ATI, D-Link, Fujitsu, Lexmark, LG Electronics, Microsoft and Samsung. EMJ’s line card also includes Apple and Cisco while Synnex brings HP, IBM and Intel to the table.

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