Alcatel-Lucent names Verwaayen CEO, Camus chairman

Alcatel-Lucent’s board has selected former BT CEO Ben Verwaayen as its new CEO, while Philippe Camus, currently co-managing partner of media conglomerate Lagardère, will become its new chairman, the company announced Tuesday morning.

Verwaayen takes over from former Lucent Technologies CEO Patricia Russo, who resigned on July 29.

He takes the helm of a company battered by its passage through a rocky two-year merger process, during which its financial performance has failed to impress investors.

For the second quarter, the company’s revenue dropped 5.2 per cent year on year — although excluding the effect of currency fluctuations, revenue would have risen 1.7 per cent, the company said. Nevertheless, departing CEO Russo said in July that she was pleased with the progress the merged company had made on its cost-cutting program.

Camus, in addition to his role at Lagardère, is a partner at New York investment firm Evercore Partners, and was previously co-CEO of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS). He will become chairman on Oct. 1, taking over from former Alcatel Chairman and CEO Serge Tchuruk, who also announced his resignation in July.

While the post-merger cost cutting may be done, the cultural side of things is far from complete, in part due to the uneasy relationship between the former CEOs of the two merged companies. Announcing his decision to step down in July, Tchuruk said his and Russo’s departures would allow the merged company to take on a personality of its own.

Verwaayen, a Dutchman who will work in Paris, may have what it takes to bring the two cultures together, as he has previously worked for both Alcatel and Lucent. Before his six-year stint as CEO of BT, Verwaayen was vice-chairman of the management board of Lucent, while in the 1980s he worked at ITT, a predecessor of Alcatel.

Camus, who is French but resident in the U.S., will also be well placed to smooth over cultural differences between Lucent’s historic base in North America, and Alcatel’s in France.

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