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Motorola board faces down a hostile crowd

Pledges to be flexible and focused - at the same time

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Angry Motorola shareholders confronted the ailing firm's board over the company's poor performance yesterday, but left with little more than vague promises and estimated dates.

The annual meeting in Chicago saw 350 shareholders turn up to ask why Motorola seemed incapable of producing a decent mobile phone, specifically one to compete with Apple's iPhone.

The meeting was perhaps less dramatic than last year - when investor Carl Icahn was fighting the board for control - but the bile still flowed freely as attendees queued up to slag off the current, and previous, management.

"You're not doing your job that you're paid for. Either put up or get out," said George Polous, one of the Motorola's unhappy shareholders in a typical comment. The best CEO Greg Brown could do, in response, was trot out the usual platitudes:

"I think often times at Motorola, it has been a technology-led company," he said in response to a question "and we're taking steps now to be a consumer-led company", before explaining how the company was going to be more focused, and flexible, in future.

The meeting saw a lot of discussion was about a proposed split which would see the mobile device division separated some time during 2009. Hopes for a more exact timetable, and details of how the split would be managed, were unrealised, though one investor drew applause by calling the plan "a cop-out…are we just going to get the same board split in two…You are doing these things and you don’t really seem to know where you are going".

Investors have every right to be angry. They've seen Motorola's stock sink 45 per cent in the last year, and the board's performance during the meeting didn't seem to help - the shares slid another 13 cents following the meeting.®

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