Few Answers as Motorola Exec Shifts Continue

One has to wonder if there is now a revolving door at Motorola’s executive suite given that another top leader — this time, mobile services honcho Stu Reed — has left the building, raising further uncertainty about the company’s future in handsets.

The news this weekend came as little surprise given CEO Greg Brown, who took over for ex-CEO Ed Zander in January, announced a few weeks back he was stepping into run the beleaguered division directly.

Reed, who had previously lead supply chain efforts at Motorola (NYSE: MOT), had been running the mobile division for six months.

The question is whether the latest in a series of executive changes is tied to Brown building his own management team, or whether Moto is “clearing the decks” in anticipation of a sale, as one analyst surmised.

“I think it’s the other shoe dropping and it’s part of a sale effort,” Carmi Levy, senior vice president of strategic consulting at AR Communications, told InternetNews.com. “A buyer wants signs of stability and leadership and bringing in new leaders will boost confidence.”

But Bill Hughes, principal analyst for In-Stat’s wireless research group, isn’t so sure that’s true. After all, Hughes said, if there was an impending sale, corporate leaders vested in the stock plan wouldn’t be in a rush to leave.

“If something was imminent no one’s going to leave options behind,” Hughes told InternetNews.com. “I think it’s more about [Brown] finding the right people,” he said.

In a short company statement about the latest departure, Reed was credited for leading “a number of key initiatives” important to the mobile devices business that Motorola says it will continue to drive and expand upon.

The statement also said Reed helped “generate significant cost savings by consolidating suppliers and implementing a comprehensive supply chain strategy.”

The news follows on the heels of Paul J. Liska’s appointment earlier this month to the position of executive vice president and CFO. He bumped out Tom Meredith, who then assumed a non-management board member spot “to ensure a smooth transition,” according to Motorola.

Last week, Kenneth Keller left his role as chief marketing officer at the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company.

According to published reports, Keller’s job now is being handled by two executives: Jeremy Dale, marketing chief for the mobile devices unit, and Eduardo Conrado, a vice president of global marketing.

Prior to Keller’s leaving, Moto lost CTO Padmasree Warrior to Cisco. HR director Ruth Fattori also recently departed to join MetLife.

While new leadership is often tied to strategic revamping, industry analysts say Motorola’s Brown has additional challenges if he’s intent on getting the company back on track.

“Motorola is in trouble and big changes are being made. There are some deep-seated problems,” Jeff Kagan, a telecom industry analyst, told InternetNews.com.

Those problems prompted Motorola’s board to push Zander out in favor of Brown. But now, shareholders are likely getting antsy for good news, said AR Communications’ Levy.

“The board is expecting to see signs of a turn-around to start taking root,” Levy added. “Brown’s hands-on approach is not unlike having a very sick patient and a doctor closely hovering over the bed.”

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