Former Windstream CEO Jeff Gardner, who in 2020 became the CEO of publicly traded software services provider CalAmp Corp. of Irvine, California, died Sunday at age 63.
In a statement, CalAmp said Gardner died from “presumed natural causes.” Jason Cohenour, head of CalAmp’s board of directors, was named interim CEO.
“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Jeff Gardner,” the company said. “Jeff was a dedicated and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community.”
Gardner was the first CEO of Windstream, the Little Rock telecommunications company that was spun out of Alltel Corp. in 2006. During his tenure, he oversaw early development of the company’s real estate investment trust spinoff, Communications Sales & Leasing Inc. The publicly traded REIT would later rebrand as Uniti Group Inc.
“We were saddened to learn of Jeff’s passing,” Tony Thomas, Windstream’s current CEO, said in a statement. “He led Windstream’s spin-off from Alltel and merger with Valor Telecom and charted our growth path as a public company. He cared deeply about Windstream and our employees. Our prayers are with his wife, Chris, and his three boys.”
Gardner stepped down as CEO of Windstream in December 2014, with the company’s board of directors citing a desire for “a change in perspective” and the need to “more effectively respond to the rapidly evolving needs of our customers.” His successor later revealed that Windstream’s lagging financial performance was a factor in Gardner’s departure.
In 2015, Gardner became CEO of Brinks Home Security and joined the boards of CalAmp and Qorvo Inc., a publicly traded wireless communications multinational based in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“We will be forever grateful for his counsel and for his dedication to our Company and its shareholders,” Qorvo said in a statement. “On behalf of the directors, management, and employees of Qorvo, we extend our condolences to Jeff’s family during this difficult time.”
CalAmp announced earlier this year that Gardner was set to step down as CEO by October. Company leaders said that during his tenure, Gardner strengthened its leadership team and optimized its cost structure while guiding the company through the COVID-19 pandemic and global supply chain crisis.
In May, when Gardner announced his plans to step down, he said, “It has been a privilege working with the amazing group of colleagues at CalAmp. I am proud of all that we have accomplished and the progress we have made in positioning the Company for growth and profitability.”
David Avery, Windstream’s vice president of government affairs and a former colleague of Gardner, posted on social media that it was a privilege to work with Gardner.
“He was an accomplished business executive but more importantly a kind and gracious man who cared deeply for his family, those he worked with and his adopted city of Little Rock,” Avery said.