Lucent taps Russo as CEO

Lucent Technologies Inc. Monday named a former executive as its new CEO, ending a long search that began with the removal of CEO Rich McGinn in October 2000.

Lucent tapped Patricia Russo, president and COO of Eastman Kodak Co., as its new president and CEO, replacing Henry Schacht, who will now serve as interim chairman for a year. Russo spent only nine months at Kodak, after 20 years with Lucent and AT&T Corp.

Russo is viewed by observers as a Lucent “insider,” who, despite her nine-month sabbatical at Kodak, is familiar with the company’s operations, markets, product lines and problems. She can make decisions quicker, and implement and execute procedures faster than an outsider, they say.

“Pat brings deep knowledge of our industry and our customers, coupled with the ability to lead a large organization through change,” Schacht said in a statement. “She understands and embraces our strategic and restructuring plans, and she can step in as CEO without missing a beat.”

While at AT&T and Lucent, Russo managed some of the companies’ largest divisions and most critical corporate functions. And she helped launch Lucent’s spin-off from AT&T in 1996.

But she also served under the regime of McGinn, who was deposed as Lucent CEO 15 months ago following a string of disappointing quarters and failures to crack new markets. It is unclear which decisions, if any, Russo made at that time that may have contributed to Lucent’s financial decline.

Also, Russo inherits a Lucent far different from the one she left. The company is in the throes of its second operational restructuring implemented by Schacht, who came out of retirement to fill the CEO slot on an interim basis after McGinn’s removal.

Lucent’s workforce is half of what it was a year ago. The company has exited several markets, and is playing catch-up to rivals in others while it essentially fights for survival.

Lucent is hoping Russo can revisit some of her past successes.

During her tenure at Lucent and AT&T, Russo served as executive vice president and CEO of Lucent’s Service Provider Networks division, responsible for sales, distribution, installation and development of products and systems for the company’s service provider customers.

She was also executive vice-president of Lucent’s corporate operations from 1997 to 1999, with oversight for corporate strategy, business development, supply chain, human resources and investor and public relations organizations. Russo was also president of the Business Communications Systems division of AT&T and Lucent from 1992 to 1996.

She is credited with turning around Lucent’s US$6 billion enterprise communications business, which was the company’s second-largest division and was later spun off as Avaya Inc. Russo currently serves as non-executive chairman of Avaya.

Before joining AT&T in 1981, Russo spent eight years in sales and marketing management at IBM Corp.

Lucent Technologies Canada Corp. in Toronto is at