Ex Vodafone exec to lead Alcatel-Lucent

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Former CEO of Vodafone Europe Michel Combes to take over from Ben Verwaayen at Alcatel-Lucent on 1 April

In a decision that came faster than expected, Alcatel-Lucent’s board has appointed Michel Combes to be CEO of the company from 1 April, replacing Ben Verwaayen.

Combes was CEO of the European division of Vodafone until May 2012, when he was expected to become CEO of French telecoms company SFR. However, SFR’s parent, Vivendi, fired its own CEO, Jean-Bernard Levy the following month and Combes withdrew from the position.

Verwaayen resigned after Alcatel-Lucent reported worse than expected results in early February. Until that point, he had been expecting to stay on: he had told Global Telecoms Business in an interview in early January that he wanted to complete the task at the company, which recruited him in 2008.

Earlier in his career Combes was chairman and CEO of French transmission company TDF and then CFO and senior executive vice president of France Telecom. When Combes left Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said that he had “been central to the turnaround in our commercial performance in Europe”.

Philippe Camus, chairman of the board of Alcatel-Lucent, said that as CEO Combes “will be responsible for delivering sustainable profitability” at the company. “His deep knowledge of the industry as well as his experience of major business and financial transformation at a worldwide level will be pivotal in helping the company pursue its aggressive transformation, while meeting customer needs with disruptive innovation.”

Combes said that while Alcatel-Lucent had “an immense array of talent and capabilities in R&D”, it was “facing major challenges”. He added: “This is a company I know well and I look forward to succeeding Ben, working with the key international customers, and driving the business into sustained profitability for its customers, employees and shareholders.”

At the same time the board has appointed former Bell Canada CEO Jean Monty as vice chairman of the board. He is also a former president and COO of Nortel. He retired from Bell Canada’s parent, BCE, in 2002.

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