Friday, July 24, 2009

Where I call Nortel a squirrel

It's been a fun week in medialand for me. The various bits and pieces of former Canadian tech industry superstar, Nortel, are on the block. As everyone circles around like vultures, positioning for the inevitable kill, I've been watching the proceedings and trying to make sense of it all.

Research In Motion (the BlackBerry company) made things interesting this week by going public with claims it was being shut out of the process. The auction for one of the units, wireless, goes ahead today, albeit without RIM. I expect this to get even more entertaining well into next week, and quite likely beyond.

On Tuesday, I was interviewed by BNN's Michael Kane on his show, Lunch Money. I also spoke extensively with CBC Radio in both Ottawa (where Nortel looms large on the business landscape) and nationally (where, I guess, they also still loom large.) By far my favorite quotes came out of discussions I had with Reuters through the week. I hope they make you smile:

July 24. Nortel, A Fallen Canadian Icon, Starts Asset Sales. Byline Pav Jordan (New York Times link)
"The carcass of one of the leading high flyers for much of the last decade and a half is now up for grabs and to the victor go the spoils," said Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst.

"Even though Nortel has been a laughing stock for much of this decade, that hasn't stopped some of its most vicious competitors from emerging from the woodwork to claim their prize."
July 23. Nortel looks to be worth more dead than alive. Byline Susan Taylor.
"There's a lot of delicious irony associated with what's happening now," said Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst. "Everybody shows up for the funeral, but no one goes to visit the patients in hospital before they actually die."


The current heated interest in Nortel assets demonstrates the company's R&D might, but it also underscores its big strategic blunders, Levy said.

"When you're restructuring, learn which horse to back and don't back the wrong one," he said.


"You cannot be in perpetual restructure mode and you cannot change your restructuring strategy on a whim," Levy said.

"It was almost a squirrel-like leadership strategy (at Nortel) - look here, look there - you almost can't focus on one spot for too long."

The strategy was toxic when mixed with Nortel's ultra-conservative customers, who make multi-year, multibillion-dollar bets with their purchases, Levy said.
Great fun, this! I expect there's more to come over the next bit. Stay tuned!


kenju said...

Nortel was once a huge presence here in our area. It's a shame it isn't anymore.

invisible said...

I wonder if Nortel execs have some new money squirreled away in swiss bank accounts from the foreign companies that persuaded Nortel to keep R.I.M. ( and Canada) out of the running.
See it does pay to be a squirrel.
Go nuts!

David Edward said...

do you write these quips before hand, or make them up on the fly?
either way you are a wordsmith and an entertainer.

Anonymous said...

It’s heart wrenching and humiliating to see Nortel’s asset sold piece by piece. Current and former so-called execs and visionaries failed to capitalize on marketplace opportunities and make right decisions. The same companies who feared Nortel's competitiveness are now picking at the carcass of Nortel. Shareholders and employees of the once telecom star should be outraged. R.I.P Nortel

Irish Church Lady :) said...

Working in Ottawa in the high tech industry and being a Waterloo grad I find this entertaining but disconcerting.