Alcatel-Lucent confirmed early Thursday that CEO Ben Verwaayen is resigning after four tumultuous years at the helm of the Franco-American network equipment maker. Verwaayen will stay put while the board seeks a replacement.
The announcement confirms the Wall Street Journal’s report Wednesday on the resignation, though the newspapers sources seemed to disagree whether Verwaayen was forced out by the board or if the decision was mutual.
“Alcatel-Lucent has been an enormous part of my life,” Verwaayen said in an Alcatel-Lucent statement. “It was therefore a difficult decision to not seek a further term, but it was clear to me that now is an appropriate moment for the Board to seek fresh leadership to take the company forward.”
When France’s Alcatel and the U.S.’s Lucent Technologies merged six years ago, the combined company was supposed to dominate telecom infrastructure. Its portfolio spanned both the wireline and wireless markets from optical networking to IP routing to 4G base stations. But the last half decade hasn’t been kind to telecom equipment makers and even less so to Alcatel-Lucent. The company has struggled financially, and it’s lost competitive ground both to traditional rivals like Sweden’s Ericsson and to more recent challengers from Asia like Huawei.
On the wireless side, Alcatel-Lucent plowed its resources into LTE. It built an innovative new radio architecture called lightRadio, and focused on landing early key contracts. At first that strategy seemed to be succeeding. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint awarded the company major portions of their massive LTE contracts, but the deals began to peter out after those initial big wins. The vendor was left out of big European deals even in its home country of France.