Former Motorola employee blasts current, former management

Personal adviser to Motorola's former CMO writes letter accusing former CEO Ed Zander of overworking his boss and current CEO Greg Brown of being in over his head.

Tom Krazit
Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
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The assistant to Motorola's former chief marketing officer has accused former CEO Ed Zander of working his boss to death--literally--and declared that current CEO Greg Brown is "actively killing the company."

Engadget obtained a letter written by Numair Faraz, who was a personal adviser to former Motorola Chief Marketing Officer Geoffrey Frost, sent to Motorola's top executives earlier this year.

In the letter, released the same day Motorola announced plans to separate into two companies, Faraz outlines Motorola's downfall from the heights it reached during the success of the Razr.

"I've always considered it Motorola's dirty little secret that the strategy for their entire profit machine was run by the company's CMO--not the rest of the company's executives, who are as inept now as they have ever been," Faraz wrote. Frost was widely credited as the force behind the development of the Razr, the superslim phone that became one of the hottest-selling phones ever to emerge from Motorola.

"Many close to Geoffrey believed Ed Zander worked him to death, putting the pressure of the fate of the company in his hands," Faraz wrote. Frost died suddenly in 2005, and with him died Motorola's Razr strategy.

The company was never able to come up with a successor to the product and flogged it mightily around the world, even after its trademark thin design had been copied and bested by other mobile-phone makers. As a result, Zander no longer runs Motorola.

The letter is quite scathing, going on to accuse current CEO Greg Brown of giving into to the demands of activist investor Carl Icahn without good reason.

"Your lack of understanding of the consumer side of Motorola doesn't give you a valid reason for selling the handset business; moreover, publicly disclosing your explorations of such a move, in an attempt to keep Carl Icahn off your back, shows how much you value the safety of your incompetence," Faraz wrote.

It's hard to say how much of this is true and how much of this is the emotional release of a disgruntled Motorola employee who also suffered the loss of someone close. Clearly, though, by any measure, Motorola has completely and totally screwed up its mobile-phone business in the years since Frost's death by failing to move past the Razr.

Accusing Zander of overworking Frost is hard to prove, from where I sit. Life at the top of a huge technology company is not for the squeamish; pressure, travel, and long hours are mandatory. But Zander obviously depended heavily on others to run the consumer side of Motorola's business; this is a guy who dismissed the iPod Nano by saying "Who listens to 1,000 songs?" Well, apparently tens of millions of people do.

A Motorola representative declined to comment on the letter to Engadget and did not immediately return a call and an e-mail seeking comment on the letter, though it's been quite a busy day over there.