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Nokia's Canuck boss claims Arctic bond with Finland

'We play ice hockey too'

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Nokia held a press conference today to introduce its first ever non-Finnish CEO, Stephen Elop. We learned that the outgoing predecessor's cards were marked ages ago, and that Nokia looks set to give the newcomer the chance to shake things up at the bureaucracy-bound tech giant.

Stephen Elop was impressive, but he didn't give much away. The Canadian drew parallels between Finland and his home country: "You may know Canada and Finland share the Arctic Circle, and that holds me in good stead as I move forward!" Elop said, reminding the press that both countries play ice hockey - and both are full of miserable buggers.

(Actually, I made that last bit up - please don't write in).

Elop compared the current state of the mobile phone industry to the impact of the web, and the leap from CLIs to GUIs. Elop paid tribute to all the right things, particularly the logistics and distribution networks, and he didn't mention marketing once.

The new CEO pointed out that in his brief (18 month) stint running Microsoft's business division, he'd steered them to a partnership with Nokia. The two had traditionally been enemies.

Jorma Ollia, Nokia's chairman and its most successful ever CEO, who stepped down in 2006, said Nokia's board had been conducting a major shake-up in October 2009, and embarked on looking for a new in CEO in May. He said several internal candidates had been examined for the job.

Ollila said Elop had impressed because of his software experience and "proven track record in change management". This must refer to his tenure at Macromedia, where the executive team survived the dot com bubble and steered the company towards an acquisition. In fact Elop's tenure as CEO of Macromedia lasted just a year, and the final six months of that was tied up in the merger with Adobe.

"Driving innovation" is the first thing Nokia cites in its official press release on the appointment, and innovation is where it has historically led, until recent years.

"Now is the time to bring in some new leadership skills with some new strengths", he said.

"He has a strong cultural sensitivity," said Ollia. And he'll need it. One bristling lady TV journalist asked him: "What else do you know about Finland, apart from ice hockey? And it looks like you've been changing jobs your jobs pretty frequently. What kind of leader you are?"

Elop can expect more like this when he steps into the hotseat, a week on Tuesday. ®

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