Former Fujitsu Network Communications sales boss returns from his VC stint to become group president and COO

August 13, 2002

3 Min Read
Fujitsu Exec Returns After VC Stint

RICHARDSON, Texas -- George B. Chase returned to Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (FNC) last month as its group president and chief operating officer. Chase, FNC's former sales and marketing boss, left the company more than two years ago to become a venture capitalist.

It's noteworthy that Chase would return to his old stomping grounds at a time when the economy is stomping all over telecom equipment makers such as FNC.

FNC and other leading Sonet transmission equipment vendors have seen their sales drop from heavenly heights during the past year. Fujitsu Ltd. (KLS: FUJI.KL), FNC's parent, predicts that sales for its North American Transmission Equipment business will fall 56 percent in the current fiscal year.

Last year, FNC cut 500 jobs -- 15 percent of its North American workforce. The company still employs about 2,200 in Dallas, though the carrier spending climate is arguably worse now.

So Chase faces many challenges, and he says his plans include sharpening FNC's focus. However, after only a few days on the job, he hasn't finalized any specific plans, so it's hard to tell whether layoffs are coming.

With so many executives leaving the industry these days, it's surprising to see someone return charged with optimism (see Execs Cast a Wide Net). But those who know Chase say it's not a shock.

"When [former FNC COO] Ron Martin left to join Cisco Systems Inc. [Nasdaq: CSCO], I assumed FNC would be calling George," says David Hook, founder and general partner at Dali Hook Partners, the VC firm Chase just left. "It was a natural thing to do."

Chase does bring a rare set of experiences to FNC. He's a nine-year veteran of FNC with 30 years in the telecom business, and he has acquired an outsider's view, thanks to his VC stint. In addition, Chase knows FNC's largest customers, which include Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), and SBC Communications Inc.

Chase says he first left FNC in search of entrepreneurial experiences. At Dali Hook he helped fund Occam Networks Inc. (OTC: OCCM), Celeste Optics, White Rock Networks, and Xtera Communications Inc. He was also involved in a few howlers such as Optimight Communications, Metera Networks, and Latus Lightworks -- all of which have ceased operations (see Iris Group Wilts; Metera Next to Shutter, Lights Dim at Latus, and OptiMight Be Shutting Down).

"I think the things I liked [about being a VC] was dealing with entrepreneurial people," Chase says. "You saw a lot of good CEOs and a lot of bad ones, too."

Eventually, Chase realized he preferred steering to backseat driving. "I'm an operations guy," he says. "I want to be… worrying about the revenues and cutting costs and dealing with all the issues, as opposed to being little more than a counselor to a variety of companies."

At last, Chase can scratch his "hands-on" itch while perhaps giving FNC a morale boost as well. "Fujitsu is well positioned with the best customers in this market, and I want people to know that I believe strongly in the company and that's why I came back."

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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