It’s with an incredibly heavy heart that I share the loss of our lead independent director, Len Lauer, who died unexpectedly last week. On behalf of Western Digital’s Board of Directors, executive leadership team and thousands of employees around the world, we send our deepest sympathies to Len’s family and sincerely hope we can provide them with some comfort in knowing how much he meant to us.
When I think back on my career, I realize how fortunate I’ve been to work with some extraordinary leaders who have influenced me personally. After working together on Western Digital’s Board for a decade, I consider Len to be one of these people. He was dynamic, insightful and highly effective. His ability to get it “right” at the most important aspects of the business was remarkable. He was prepared, engaged, respectful, often tough and direct but always willing to consider an opposing view. He could get things done with astonishing agility. He set very high standards for the board and our management team and there was never any doubt about what he expected or what he thought. He made everyone around him better because he wanted all of us to be exceptional.
Over the past few days, I’ve talked to several of Len’s Western Digital colleagues. The overwhelming sense of grief and sadness that we feel is profound. We all have heart-warming memories or thoughtful reflections about what made Len so special. The greatest tribute I could possibly pay is to share some of our memories of Len here:
Len was a force on our Western Digital Board. He was quiet, respectful and always personally accountable. The company was a priority for him and he showed it in his dedication to the many roles he played for us. When he spoke of more personal matters, Len loved sharing stories about his children and about the ways they were building their lives and careers. I join the Western Digital family in taking this moment to reflect on Len, on giving back as he did, and to honor this great man as someone who cared about our company and every individual in it.
– Kathleen Cote, Western Digital Board Member and former Chief Executive Officer, Worldport Communications, Inc.
Len was a tireless, committed board member, serving as Western Digital’s lead independent director while also continuing to serve as the CEO of Memjet. He was a disciplined business leader and focused on growing the business. He was known for being very personable and respectful. I enjoyed working with him and will miss him.
– Martin Cole, Western Digital Board Member and former Chief Executive, Accenture plc Technology Group
From the moment I met him, I was struck with his ability to listen. He was one of those leaders who really heard what people were saying. He was thoughtful, balanced and an excellent coach and mentor. I admired his leadership and often reflected on ways I could “be more like Len”. I am most sad for his family as I know how much he adored them and was so proud of his children. He would often share stories of their adventures and accomplishments and you couldn’t miss seeing how much joy this gave him.
– Kimberly Alexy, Western Digital Board Member and Principal, Alexy Capital Management
Len was such an intense listener — always to understand and not just to respond. Once he heard, he quickly provided clarity, insight and proposed action. Literally every time I was around him or interacted with him, I took away something positive. I will really miss him.
– Stephanie Streeter, Western Digital Board Member and former Chief Executive Officer, Libbey Inc.
I got to know Len quite well over the past few months as he was instrumental in bringing me to Western Digital. His business acumen and forthrightness were apparent from the start and helped draw me to the company. I speak for the entire management team in expressing our condolences to his family. He will be missed.
– David Goeckeler, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member, Western Digital
I met Len when I was interviewing for the Western Digital Board of Directors and my first impression was that he was a person with purpose, determination and velocity. After joining the team and interacting with him more, I could see all three of these traits in everything that he did. In all of our board decisions and the execution of those decisions, he was determined to find compromises and solutions to achieve the purpose, at high speed and in the right direction. I realize now that for every issue or decision, he had figured out how to boil it down to its essence, articulate this with clarity and with amazing efficiency. He had the same approach to health and family. I am surely going to miss him.
– Tunç Doluca, Western Digital Board Member and Chief Executive Officer, Maxim Integrated
Len was a person of calm confidence, thoughtful and serious, yet possessing a warm personality and genuine sense of humor. He had real dedication to both people and purpose, coupled with a very large capacity for working the task at hand. He was always prepared, always ready to engage and always seeking out a way to contribute and give more of himself. These traits defined Len as a person and as a fellow board member. His contributions to the board and Western Digital were many and he will be greatly missed.
– Tom Pardun, former Chairman of the Board of Directors, Western Digital
Len was an excellent strategic thought partner to the Western Digital board and very often, a voice of reason through many important discussions. I will always remember him for his level-headed approach to solving big problems. He was very focused as a business leader but was also very caring. Not only was his care for the business evident, but also his care for his family. He will be greatly missed.
– Paula Price, former Western Digital Board Member
Len was a highly effective corporate board member and a good friend to all of us who had the privilege of working with him. Never the first to enter a conversation, Len would observe and listen as others asked questions, stated their views and sometimes debated an issue at hand. Then, after all or most were heard from, he would speak. His comments usually summarized the issue being discussed and often laid out a clear direction. He offered all this with no ego and with a calm, friendly attitude. I considered him to be a true friend. My wife and I wish to send our deepest sympathies to his family and hope they know how deeply he will be missed.
– Henry DeNero, former Western Digital Board Member
I became close friends with Len as members of the Western Digital board over the years. From very early on, I admired his willingness to take on more responsibility. He always conducted his duties in a professional and respectful manner and I highly valued his thoughts and perspective. I marveled at his ability to balance his role as CEO of Memjet, board duties, family and involvement with his hobbies. He was taken from us way too soon and I will greatly miss him.
– Michael Lambert, former Western Digital board member
As we build from the past ten years of Len’s leadership, I am so honored to have had the opportunity to work with him. He was our confidant, trusted advisor and friend. All of us who were lucky enough to have known him and work with him will hold close his esprit de corps for the rest of time.