Nokia Hires Microsoft Executive as CEO

By Reuters  |  Print this article Print

Stephen Elop, a Canadian Microsoft executive, is joining Nokia as CEO.

(Reuters) - Nokia has hired Stephen Elop, a Canadian Microsoft executive with Silicon Valley credentials, to replace its embattled chief executive and renew its drive to compete with Apple.

The world's top cellphone maker said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who presided over a halving in Nokia's market value to about $37 billion during his four years in charge, would hand over to Elop on September 21. Nokia shares rose as much as 6.9 percent.

Elop, 46, has risen rapidly over the past five years from chief executive of San Francisco Web software maker Macromedia to chief operating officer of Juniper Networks to head of Microsoft's Business Division, which makes Office software.

Chairman Jorma Ollila, who led Nokia's transformation from a rubber boots-to-TVs conglomerate into a mobile-phone giant in the 1990s, said he would also resign as soon as possible after the transition, underlining the scale of change at the Finnish company.

Under Kallasvuo, who will get a severance payment of 4.6 million euros ($5.8 million), Nokia has struggled to keep up with rivals such as Apple and Google in smartphones, the most profitable and fastest-growing part of the market.

At a Helsinki news conference, Elop said it was too early to say what he planned to change. He said: "My job is ... to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our customers, while delivering superior financial results."

The conference was broadcast live on Finland's main television and radio channels, demonstrating the strength of national interest in the 145-year-old company, which dominates the Nordic nation's economy.

Elop's appointment is a major shift for Nokia; he will be the first non-Finn to run the company, and eight of the current 10 executive board members are Finns.

Investors and pundits had urged Nokia to bring in an outsider, ideally an American, to help the company regain a reputation for "cool" it has largely lost to Apple's iPhone and a host of other phones built around Google's Android software.

The Finnish company has lacked a hit smartphone model since its N95 model launched in 2006, has failed to ignite much excitement around its new Web services and has performed particularly weakly in the United States.