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Zafirovski to walk from Nortel with 'head held high'

CEO will leave bankrupt firm soon

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Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski has said he will soon step down from the stricken firm and "walk out with my head held high."

The ex-Motorola exec, who was brought in to try and drag Nortel back from the abyss, but instead has presided over its collapse and breakup, told the Ottawa Citizen that he had been approached to run other companies.

He said that "obviously I'm not going to be a CEO of a residual company dealing with patent assets and claims."

That is where Nortel is heading, of course, as it auctions itself off slice by slice, after collapsing into bankruptcy in January.

Zafirovski joined the firm is 2005, not long after he'd been passed over for the top slot at Motorola, despite being credited with turning around the lumbering giant's mobile arm.

Nortel was only just beginning to get over the dot com meltdown and a succession of accounting scandals.

However, Zafirovski's efforts were scuppered by yet another financial downturn - which began in 2007 or 2008, depending on your point of view.

Either way, capital spending shrank, as did access to credit, which meant Nortel went into relapse and this time was unable to recover.

"We wanted a great transformation and gave it one hell of a run," he said. "We were on the verge of one, but the world turned upside down."

"But once we got here [into bankruptcy], our goal became 'let's make this one of the better examples of what it's possible to do in Chapter 11."

Funnily enough, Zafirovski lost out for the top job at Motorola to former Sun exec Ed Zander. And we all know how well that turned out. As for Sun, it arguably also never recovered from the dot com crash.

Is there a moral to all this? Only, perhaps, that companies should not find their CEOs from the back of the phone book. ®

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