New Lucent CEO to keep strategy intact

After a 15-month search for a new CEO, Lucent Technologies Inc. last week brought back a former high-level executive who isn’t expected to make major strategic changes at the struggling company.

Lucent gave the CEO job to Patricia Russo, who left the Murray Hill, N.J.-based vendor of telecommunications equipment 18 months ago and most recently was president and chief operating officer at Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, N.Y. Russo, 49, takes over at Lucent from Henry Schacht, who had been running the company on an interim basis since late 2000.

But Schacht will continue as chairman for up to a year, and Russo indicated that she plans to stick with the strategy he devised. In a statement, Russo said Schacht and his management team “have put in place and are implementing a solid, credible plan for turning this business around.”

Russo is no stranger to Lucent, having worked at the company and its forerunner operations within AT&T Corp. for 19 years before leaving in August 2000. Her last job before she departed was heading up the Lucent unit that makes equipment for telecommunications and data network services providers the business that became the company’s core operation as part of the overhaul started by Schacht.

“In some respects, she may see this as vindication for being prematurely forced to leave Lucent in the first place,” said Jim Slaby, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

The Lucent that Russo is returning to is far different from the one she left, following a series of cutbacks and restructuring moves that were prompted by big losses and a sharp drop-off in sales.

Lucent is now focused almost solely on selling to service providers, Slaby said. The company’s line of enterprise switches and hubs was spun off into Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya Inc. two years ago, and various other units have also been divested since then.

Janet Davidson, president of integrated network solutions at Lucent, said the company still offers network services and systems to corporate users through service providers and other partners. For example, she said, Lucent worked with

WorldCom Inc. to provide a virtual private network linking more than 1,000 locations to Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. in Torrance, Calif.

Lucent also continues to sell directly to IT departments in vertical markets such as finance and health care. But corporate users “will have a hard time getting much attention from Lucent,” Slaby said.

Lucent Canada is at