Top Newsmaker: Nortel Networks’ Mike Zafirovski

Published: December 22nd, 2008

It was a year of ups and downs for Nortel Networks (TSX: NT), the company that was once the jewel in Canada’s IT crown and for its president and CEO, Mike Zafirovski.

The telecom and networking equipment vendor has been struggling to recapture its former successes, and has been making strong progress in emerging markets such as unified communications and through partnerships with vendors such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and IBM (NYSE:IBM).

When he spoke to attendees at the International Nortel Networks Users Association’s annual Global Connect conference in June, Zafirovski painted a picture of how Nortel has been getting its groove back through a major transformational effort that has includes strong R&D investment, partnerships, and closer engagement with its channel.

While the strategy seemed to be paying dividends, Nortel suffered a setback in November when it announced plans to cut 1,300 jobs following a third quarter loss of $3.4 billion. The vendor blamed a challenging economic environment, competitive pressures and reduced spending by key carrier customers, especially in North America , for the results.

With Zafirovski promising a “simpler and leaner” company, Nortel also put in place a number of other measurements to reduce its corporate structure and lower costs, including freezing salaries, extending its existing hiring freeze through 2009 and making deeper cuts in discretionary spending.