Nortel Sinks Owens

    October 18, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Former Motorola executive Mike Zafirovski will replace former Navy Admiral Bill Owens as CEO at Nortel.

Owens’ ship has sailed; after helping telecom equipment company Nortel recover from massive accounting fraud and the firing of 10 executives, he will move on in favor of one-time Motorola CEO candidate Zafirovski, several sources have reported.

How Zafirovski will help Nortel return to profitability may come straight from the pages of Jack Welch’s GE management handbook. BusinessWeek noted Zafirovski was a Welch disciple and implemented GE management practices while at Motorola.

Those practices include the fabled fire-the-bottom-10-percent formula, where the lowest performing managers find themselves jobless annually. Nortel has a presence in numerous telecom related businesses, but isn’t considered top-tier in any of its markets. The potential for delving into growth areas like high-speed wireless networks exists, if Nortel can take advantage of the opportunities.

Owens’ tenure as CEO, after moving up from the board to replace the fired Frank Dunn, was generally regarded as one that would be temporary anyway. But the New York Times reported that Owens had given a lengthy interview recently, where he discussed his plans for running Nortel over the next months. It appears that the CEO change may have taken the former admiral by surprise.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.