Nortel CEO said to be leaving soon

Mike Zafirovski, who led the Toronto company into bankruptcy protection and oversaw the sell-off of wireless assets to Ericsson, will reportedly depart within weeks.

Nortel Networks CEO Mike Zafirovski
Nortel Networks CEO Mike Zafirovski Nortel Networks

Nortel Networks CEO Mike Zafirovski, who led the company into bankruptcy protection earlier this year and oversaw the sell-off of its wireless assets to Ericsson, will reportedly leave Nortel within weeks, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing "people familiar with the matter."

Nortel representatives did not immediately respond to e-mail seeing confirmation of and comment on the report.

Zafirovski was hired in 2005 to help turn around the company, much like he had done for Motorola's cell phone division. Initially, he had some success building profits from selling wireless gear to U.S. operators. Under his leadership, Nortel invested in new technology, and the company was preparing for the next wave of wireless networks. But then the economy tanked, and phone companies started to pull back on spending, which resulted in a sharp revenue drop for Nortel.

Once a giant in wireless gear, Toronto-based Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada and the U.S. earlier this year. And just last month, Ericsson cast the $1.13 billion winning bid in an auction for Nortel's wireless assets, picking up its cash cow, it's CDMA and next-generation LTE wireless technologies. That purchase virtually ensured that Nortel would be selling off the rest of its businesses, instead of reorganizing into a smaller company, making Zafirovski's departure someone inevitable.

Reuters is reporting that Nortel representatives on Friday appeared before a Canadian government committee to answer questions about the sale to Ericsson, which was opposed by BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, also of Canada. "It covets Nortel's next-generation LTE--or "long-term evolution"--wireless assets, which are being licensed as part of the Ericsson transaction. It has argued it was effectively prevented from bidding on them by Nortel," Reuters says.

CNET News reporter Marguerite Reardon contributed to this report.

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