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Former Nortel exec to lead Mitel

The telephone equipment maker appoints the former president of Nortel Networks' optical business as its new chief executive.

Telephone equipment maker Mitel Networks has appointed the former president of Nortel Networks' optical business as its new chief executive.

Don Smith, who resigned as head of Nortel's optical networking business several weeks ago, will now run Mitel Networks, an Ottawa, Canada-based company that sells traditional and Internet-based phone systems aimed at businesses. He is part of a wave of departures from Nortel's optical business.

Mitel Networks, the former phone equipment arm of semiconductor company Mitel, spun off from its parent company in February when former Newbridge Networks Chief Executive Terry Matthews acquired it for about $231 million.

Smith takes over a company of 3,000 employees that competes against Cisco Systems, 3Com, Nortel, Lucent Technologies and others in the phone equipment market. They are all selling Net-based phone systems, which are a cheaper alternative and offer more features than traditional phone systems.

New features include unified messaging, which offers the ability to check voice mail, e-mail and faxes from a PC, phone or other device; and "follow me" services, which allow workers to direct work phone calls to their cell phones or home phones.

Matthews sold his last company, Newbridge, to French telecommunications equipment giant Alcatel for $7.1 billion last year. He now plans to merge Mitel Networks with March Networks, another start-up he owns. March, which has about 300 employees, makes video software for businesses with high-speed Net access.

Matthews, who serves as chairman of Mitel Networks, recently said the combined company will be called March Networks, focusing on making equipment that combines voice, video and data on single Net-based connections.