Nortel lays off British execs in Microsoft partnership

Nortel has laid off senior staff in the U.K. who were responsible for the company’s unified communications partnership with Microsoft, according to sources.

Those let go on Monday include John Mann, who led Nortel’s unified communications business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Sources say a handful of Mann’s colleagues also were swept up in the layoff.

In addition, Nortel laid off Kevin McCarthy, global leader at Nortel’s U.K.-based Unified Communications Collaboration Center, and his team of six or seven consultants. McCarthy updated his LinkedIn profile on Monday to read, “Working on securing a new role with a new employer.”

It is unclear just how many employees were let go, but sources say the moves appear to signal that Nortel is beginning to shut down its side of the Innovative Communications Alliance (ICA) it formed in 2006 with Microsoft.

Nortel corporate spokesman Mohammed Nakhooda said from Toronto this morning that he couldn’t confirm the report. He also couldn’t comment on the status of the Nortel-Microsoft partnership.

ICA is a joint effort to develop, sell and roll out UC and VoIP technology to corporate customers. The partnership is slated to expire next year.

Craig Schuman, director of business development and strategy for the unified communications group at Microsoft, said Wednesday that “both Microsoft and Nortel remain fully committed to delivering customers the best unified communications solutions available. We are not in the position to assess the impact to the ICA until we understand Nortel’s plans for its enterprise division.”

Nortel’s plan is to sell off that division, which includes the UC equipment that is a foundational element of ICA. Nortel is in the process of liquidating its assets and hoping to restructure under Chapter 11. Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski has said the enterprise business is on the block.

The Toronto Globe and Mail is reporting that Nortel is close to selling the division to Avaya for $500 million.

Nortel’s asset liquidation could subtract from the ICA partnership Nortel’s telecommunications products, including its IP-PBX platform; the Nortel engineers working with Microsoft on jointly developed products; and Nortel Global Services, the consulting arm that provides glue for ICA. Now it appears Nortel is eliminating the executives who brought ICA’s by-product out to end-users.

According to Mann’s bio posted in conjunction with his speaking engagement at a recent unified communications conference, the 12-year veteran of Nortel ensures “Nortel has a portfolio of software and services to meet the needs of Nortel customers.” The bio says “he has managed the EMEA Innovative Communications Team from the inception of the Nortel-Microsoft ICA partnership and retains responsibility for that team.”

McCarthy’s LinkedIn profile says he is leader of the Unified Communications Collaboration Center, a “consultancy practice around UC solutions using Microsoft, IBM, Nortel and other vendor products, ISV Apps – consulting, architecture, network design, integration with business level engagement. CxO/Exec level engagement.”

Microsoft and Nortel run a number of ICA Collaboration Centers around the globe that showcase the integration of their UC products. The center in Maidenhead, U.K. is one of two that can provide a mirror of a customer’s actual environment.

Nortel’s Web site says the centers provide certified experts from Microsoft and Nortel who “offer general unified communications briefings, tailored architecture design and unique proof-of-concept sessions to illustrate the benefits of unified communications technology and help plan advanced, multi-product infrastructure solutions based on customer needs.”

(With file from Howard Solomon, Network World Canada)

STORY FROM Network World U.S.

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