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Russo Returns to Lucent as President, CEO

Embattled infrastructure provider Lucent Technologies Inc. Monday named Patricia F. Russo -- who helped create the AT&T spin-off in 1996 -- as the company's president and chief executive officer. Russo takes over for Henry Schacht, who will become the Murray Hill, N.J. outfit's chairman.

A veteran executive with 20 years of leadership experience, Russo most recently served as president and chief operating officer of Eastman Kodak Company, where she spent a year under CEO Daniel Carp trying to bolster the firm's film business.

"Pat brings deep knowledge of our industry and our customers coupled with the ability to lead a large organization through change," said Schacht, in a public statement. "She understands and embraces our strategic and restructuring plans, and she can step in as CEO without missing a beat.

Russo indicated in the public statement that she had already spoken to Schacht about Lucent's major restructuring plan.

"Henry and the team have put in place and are implementing a solid, credible plan for turning this business around," said Russo. "Lucent and this industry have always been a home to me and I look forward to working with this team to accelerate the execution of our plan."

Indeed, 2001 was a year pockmarked by layoffs, profit dips and headlines reading something like "Can it get any worse for Lucent?" for the company, formerly a Wall Street favorite. The firm was also the target of acquisition speculation, as whisperers ventured a guess that French networking rival Alcatel (or Nortel or Cisco ) was interested.

Among the many steps in its year-long overhaul process, Lucent reorganized into two product divisions in July to spruce up sales -- a wireless equipment unit, and one traditional networking equipment and software.

Russo, who jumped IBM Corp.'s ship in 1981 to join AT&T, served as president of the Business Communications Systems division of AT&T and Lucent from 1992 to 1996, where she helped accelerate an enterprise communications business, which, at a value of $6 billion, was Lucent's second-largest division and was later spun off as Avaya Inc.

She later served as executive vice president of Lucent's corporate operations from 1997 to 1999, and, in her final year before moving to Eastman Kodak, operated as executive vice president and CEO of Lucent's Service Provider Networks division, where she was in charge of sales, distribution, installation and development of products and systems for Lucent's service provider customers.

The time for Russo's move appears to be ripe, as this is the very same avenue that Lucent has targeted as its core business.