RealTime IT News

Nortel Names Another New CEO

Nortel Networks has picked Mike Zafirovski as president and CEO to replace Bill Owens, signaling the end of another tumultuous era in the management of one of the top telecommunications gear providers.

Zafirovski has impressive credentials, having recently vacated his post as president and COO of Motorola, which he held since 2002 after serving as president and CEO of the company's personal communications sector.

Mike Zafirovski
Mike Zafirovski
Source: Nortel

From 1975 to 2000, Zafirovski served with General Electric as president and CEO of GE Lighting; president of GE Capital Mortgage Corporation; and president and CEO of GE Capital Fleet Services.

"Mike Zafirovski has the kind of proven, team-building leadership that has seen him create significant new value during his career in two of the world's most important global corporations," said Harry Pearce, chairman of the board of Nortel, in a statement. "He's the right leader to build on the important work of Bill Owens -- and take Nortel to the next level."

The move comes months after a tense shareholders' meeting in which Owens was challenged about his alleged disagreements with President and COO Gary Daichendt and CTO Gary Kunis.

Those men resigned after only three months because their management styles clashed with Owens.

The seeds of discontent in the upper echelon at the Toronto company go back even farther.

In April 2004, Nortel fired President and CEO Frank Dunn amid ongoing questions about the company's accounting. The giant also dismissed CFO Douglas Beatty and controller Michael Gollogly.

The announcements followed an independent review begun by Nortel's audit committee on the circumstances that forced the company to restate financial statements for 2000, 2001 and 2002, as well as the first and second quarters of 2003.

Owens replaced Dunn, and it was reported that he had a difficult time with some of the other executives.

If that were the case, it has all been forgotten. Pearce was both effusive and melodramatic in his praise of Owens' role in steering the company out of the black waters of corruption and laying a fine foundation for Zafirovski to build on.

"At a moment of great challenge and enormous need in the history of this company, the Board turned to one of its own, whose long career embodied the highest levels of trust, integrity and distinguished leadership," said Pearce.

"Bill re-established stability within Nortel and credibility with all its stakeholders. He guided the company in becoming current in its financial reporting and maintained the loyalty of our customers. Mike can now build for the future on the strong foundation Bill Owens has given us," Pearce said.

Owens, meanwhile, hinted in the statement that age had something to do with his departure.

"At 65, I'm now pleased to turn over this company to a proven leader to drive our success over many years ahead," Owens said.

Owens will continue his engagements around the world in serving on various boards and will continue to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, as well as his philanthropic interests.