Is A Finnish IT Security Entrepreneur In Line To Be Nokia's Next Chairman?

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Credit: Esther Dyson

Nokia (NYSE: NOK) may have looked westwards for its latest CEO — the Canadian, ex-Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) executive Stephen Elop — but, in picking its new chairman, it appears the handset maker may remain Finn.

Risto Siilasmaa (pictured), a Nokia board member and the founder and largest individual shareholder of computer security company F-Secure Corporation, is reportedly being lined up for the job currently held by Jorma Ollila.

Olilla’s successor will be voted in on January 26, at the next shareholders’ meeting, according to the Finnish financial publication Helsingen Sanomat (translation here), which cites independent sources for the information.

The news comes on the same day that outspoken and influential Russian blogger Eldar Murtazin — who has put out a mixture of accurate and inaccurate speculation about Nokia in the past — released a stream of predictions on his Twitter stream about what will happen to Nokia.

On the back of Siilasmaa getting appointed (he seems to take this as a certainty), he says Elop will resign this year, and that Microsoft will buy Nokia to better compete against Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in offering integrated smartphones. The ball is in the U.S. company’s court on how and when that deal will happen, and depends on how many assets Microsoft decides to take on board, he claims. Nokia’s brand will be used for lower end devices, while Microsoft will brand the higher-end devices as its own.

Nokia has been pegged for a while as an acquisition target — it’s still the world’s biggest handset maker but its share has been falling — and it does feel like a make or break moment for the company. Regardless of how accurate Murtazin’s predictions are, there is still the matter of a new chairman to appoint now:

The search for a successor to Ollila, once CEO himself during Nokia’s possibly most triumphant phase as a mobile handset maker, has been going on for almost a year now. No other names have come up so far for who else might get put forward for the job. Other board members, in addition to Siilasmaa and Ollila, include MIT economics professor Bengt Holmstrom; the forestry company Stora Enso’s CEO, Jouko Karvinen; and Kari Stadigh, CEO of Sampo.

In addition to already being on Nokia’s board since 2008, Siilasmaa has an interesting background in his own right: he has worked at Finnish operator Elisa, and is the founder of the antivirus and IT security company F-Secure, and, according to the blog Arctic Startup, has served as the head of Vigo, an accelerator program for Finnish tech companies. Both of those give him some insight into local innovation that Nokia could and should tap into as it looks for the next phase of growth in mobile.

On the minus side, Helsingen Sanomat points out that he has virtually no international business nor investor relations experience — although as an investor himself, and a current board member already, that could be something shareholders are willing to let slide.

Nokia had one hell of a year in 2011 and is very much geared up for a fightback in 2012 based around a new line of smartphones running on Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS, in place of Nokia’s old Symbian platform, now outsourced and no longer at the center of the company’s device strategy.

While a lot of Nokia’s strategic moves in the past year have appeared to be geared to improving the company’s dire fortunes in the key market of the U.S., as well as helping retain market share in other places where it is slipping from its dominant position, the company’s foundations and roots in Finland run deep, and keeping a Finn as chairman could be a good way of making sure those stay strong.

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