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Who Tried to Save Nortel Networks?

For some former Nortel Networks workers, saving their employer was a mission. A mission unaccomplished, it seems unnecessary to say.

The effort was valiant, though. As described by the Canwest News Service, which is making a splash with its new eight-part series on Nortel’s legendary failure, five ex-Nortel execs tried to haul their company out of bankruptcy.

John McFarlane, who wrapped up his career at Nortel as vice president of technology for broadband networks, led the group that wanted to buy most of Nortel’s assets. The only division McFarlane and his comrades did not want was the enterprise unit, which Avaya won at auction in September. Apparently McFarlane saw value in all of the other branches, especially in the carrier subsidiary.

McFarlane had snared an investor, which he wouldn’t confirm. Canwest, through its sources, nailed down that entity as rival equipment maker Huawei Technologies. The idea was to keep Nortel intact, keep Canada as a renowned R&D center and protect North American retirees’ pensions.

Surely McFarlane and his colleagues did more than the Canadian government has done since Nortel filed for Chapter 11 protection in January. McFarlane was helped by Jules Meunier, former head of the wireless group; Robert Pfeffer, former chief of research and development; David Taylor, former finance executive; and Ian Craig, former chief marketing officer. Together, the men drafted business plans, worked investors and lobbied federal politicians.

Sad to say, the efforts did not result in the intended outcome. But at least someone tried. And that’s more than can be said of most Nortel directors, executives and Canadian lawmakers.


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