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Nortel CEO says g'bye as revenues rise

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Last week, Nortel president and CEO Mike Zafirovski said he would leave the embattled Canadian telecom equipment maker, and today, he made good on his promise, just as Nortel announced second-quarter financial results that were - although still feeble - better than expected.

As The Reg reported earlier today, Zafirovski told the Ottawa Citizen that he would "walk out with my head held high." There's no independent confirmation of the exact angle of his departing noggin, but his exit wasn't a lonely one. Six of Nortel's nine-member board of directors joined him in his walk out the door.

The board restructuring came as Nortel announced a drop in revenue to $1.97bn for the second quarter of 2009, down from $2.62bn for the same quarter of last year - a dip of 25 per cent.

That drop surprised no one. What did come as a pleasant surprise to the few investors who have hung with Nortel during its bankruptcy was that revenues were up 14 per cent since the first quarter of 2009.

That good news, however, wasn't bright enough to move the company's sagging stock. Its value was unchanged in over-the-counter trading this morning, still mired at a five cents per share.

With the departure of Zafirovski and two-thirds of the board, the company's still-surviving business units will report to Nortel's chief restructuring officer, Pavi Binning.

When a company's top executive has the title of "chief restructuring officer," it's clear what direction it's headed. Still, Zafirovski says the $1.13bn sale of its CDMA/LTE arm to Ericsson is still on track. The deal, he said, will preserve 80 per cent of the jobs associated with its wireless carrier business.

Zafirovski joined Nortel in 2005 as the company was still laboring to dig itself out from an accounting scandal that broke in March of 2004. Fresh from his success at Motorola, where he helped pull that then-struggling company out the ditch with such game-changing products as the wildly popular RAZR phone, it at first appeared that he might work magic at Nortel too.

But it wasn't to be. The 114-year-old company was never able to fully right itself, and after being battered by the global financial Meltdown, it filed for bankruptcy this January. It is now, as the Ericsson sale indicates, attempting to negotiate a smooth divestiture of its assets.

Although the company issued a statement today that a search is underway for a new CEO, it's difficult to understand what might attract a top-level performer to take on the job. ®

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