The fate of Nortel was very anti-climactic

Nothing sharpens the awareness of a situation like the sight of the gallows and for Mike Zafirovski that kind of motivation wasn’t enough to save Nortel Networks.

Last January I blogged that Nortel would eventually be broken up and sold piece by piece to non-Canadian interests at bargain basement prices.

I am sad to report that is the case. What’s even worse is that there are many employees, channel partners and others even media people who believed that a recovery was at hand.

I guess Zafirovski was not up to the task. He can now go back to his multi-million dollar mansion in the Ottawa suburbs and I guess lament.

As the news comes out that Nokia Siemens acquires the most valuable piece of Nortel’s assets more a measly $650 million I ponder these two questions: Why couldn’t Nortel by saved? And, what was the point of six-month bankruptcy protection process?

Lou Gerstner saved IBM, which was in worse trouble than Nortel.

Anne Mulcahy saved Xerox. That company was in a similar situation as Nortel.

More recently General Motors with a lot of help from the U.S. and Canadian governments reorganized and has better prospects for the future.

But Zafirovski failed to find a light at the end of the tunnel here.

Gerstner was a change agent who made strategic bets on E-business and managed to sweep aside the old big blue culture and transition employees to work in the real world of business.

Mulcahy was a middle-manager with a lot of guts. Her mission was a simple one: save the iconic company so that long-term, loyal employees could continue providing for their families.

I can’t figure out Zafirovski’s motivation. He came in with a lot of fan fare. Even Cisco CEO John Chambers thought he was brilliant.

He ran the company for a few years and then when things went south he took Nortel into bankruptcy protection. Now he has agreed to basically sell the 114-year iconic Canadian company at a cheap price.

I would like to see how he presents this on his resume. But you see that’s the thing. He doesn’t have to. He has been taken care of financially. So where is the motivation? Where is the focus when he does not have to face the gallows of business?

It will be interesting to hear what kind of spin Zafirovski puts on this.

He was not the orchestrator of Nortel’s demise. Carpet-bagging CEOs such as John Roth and Frank Dunn truly created this mess for him.

To be fair, Zafirovski needed to pull out a miracle. And, sometimes business leaders fall short of miracles.

Zafirovski had time, however. It should never have been left to a point where only a miracle could have saved the company.

One quick hit before I go John McKimm, chairman and CEO of Toronto-based IT staffing services and solutions company Brainhunter Inc. has resigned immediately.

McKimm has been in charge of Brainhunter since 2001.

Raj Singh, the current president and COO is assuming his duties. The Board of Directors has established a search committee of three directors to fine a new chief.

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