What's an Industry Statesman, you ask? It's the CEO or senior executive who has demonstrated the greatest qualities of leadership, technological vision, and financial acumen when guiding his or her public company through the telecommunications recession.
In other words, we were looking for a quarterback who stepped up, rather than a groundhog that crawled under a rock.
So here are the finalists, in alphabetical order by last name. The winner will be announced at our Awards Dinner after Light Reading's Telecom Investment Conference in New York City on December 15th.
- Hossein Eslambolchi, CTO, AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T)
Talk about being early on the convergence bandwagon: AT&T’s Hossein Eslambolchi -- a long-time member of Light Reading's Top Ten Movers and Shakers in Telecom -- may very well have been the one to put the wheels on it. In 2002 he started piping up in public about his “Concept of One,” a single, integrated network that would use MPLS and other multiservice technologies to build a flexibile infrastructure for any service.
So what's the big deal? Eslambolchi's technical leadership has helped guide the entire industry toward the idea of the single, converged infrastructure that would enable the industry to roll out next-generation IP services. His moves have also been crucial in the painful transformation of AT&T as it moves into new services such as VOIP. All of the sudden, the “converged” central infrastructure is on everybody’s plate, and Hossein was one of the first to make the bet.
- Scott Kriens, CEO, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)
Kriens isn't a Statesman because of his ubiquitous presence on the Internet stump trail. It's because he's run the company through the downturn without changing its fundamental mission: building world-class routing technology.
The mild-mannered Kriens is known for his laser focus on the customers and sticking to his core market, service providers. In addition, his emphasis on technical and industry issues, such as Juniper's Infranet Initiative, shows he's a true technical leader, not just another CEO-cum-salesman.
Clearly, Juniper's status and brand have grown through the downturn, a tribute to Kriens's leadership. And in the true mark of a statesman, Kriens hasn't blinked at the poker table, plopping down $4 billion for the NetScreen acquisition when folks questioned his sanity (see Juniper Buys NetScreen). At the same time, Juniper appears to have reinforced its technology edge in the ongling battle against Cisco, cementing its position as the number-two router player with which to be reckoned.
- Paul Reynolds, CEO, BT Wholesale (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)
Scotsman Paul Reynolds has emerged as the leading figure in one of the telecom industry's most ambitious and dramatic projects, known affectionately as 21CN, for the 21st Century Network. He also stands out from the crowd by being really tall (about 6'5", as one short reporter reckons). As CEO of BT Wholesale, the division of the U.K. carrier that is responsible for building and managing the proposed national IP network, he's outlined an aggressive broadband and triple-play strategy that's actually ruffled feathers inside his own company.
Reynolds has touted "turning off" the current circuit-switched network to make way for a new network of IP services over broadband, not an easy stance to take in BT's world. His vision for a high-speed, flexible, multiservice network has permeated the entire industry, and it has fundamentally changed BT, reflecting the scale of change currently underway in the telecom industry (see BT Moves Ahead With Mega Project).
You can catch some of his pitch on the recent Light Reading SuperWebinar explaining BT's networking vision.
- Brian Roberts, Chairman and CEO, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)
We looked far and wide for a leading service-provider CEO. Most of them were too busy talking to lobbyists.
You kind of get the idea that without Comcast's Brian Roberts, this whole FTTP thing may not have happened. Roberts pushed Comcast to spend its way out of the telecom recession. In 2002, as the company was attempting to swallow a large acquisition and dealing with subscriber drop-off due to satellite competition, Roberts wanted more network upgrades and more advanced technology (see Comcast Chief Is Bullish on Broadband). Making Wall Street happy, he said at the time, should "not impinge on the technological development that this industry has the opportunity to grasp."
Now he presides over a major health threat to the RBOCs, marketing triple-play services to millions of subscribers. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC), BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS), and other incumbent carriers are now scrambling to upgrade their fiber networks to compete with Comcast in various markets (see SBC Sheds Light on 'Lightspeed'). Recently Roberts spoke at the United States Telecom Association (USTA) conference and told the RBOCs -- on their home court, no less -- that if they didn't pick their regulatory battles more carefully, neither cable companies nor telephone companies would come out ahead (see Comcast & Verizon, Sitting in a Tree...). That takes quite a set of stones, my friend.
- Serge Tchuruk, Chairman and CEO, Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA)
Think about it: Alcatel has weathered the downturn a lot better than incumbent peers Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT). Tchuruk led Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) through the turbulence of the downturn and into growth and profitability, all without having to face a major financial scandal.
But Tchuruk wasn’t content, like many others, to focus purely on downsizing and attrition to weather the storm. He has expanded into new product areas, overseeing an aggressive and successful assault on the access equipment market (see Alcatel Claims DSL Milestone and Vendors Claim DSLAM Breakthrough). Alcatel’s product portfolio has actually strengthened during the downturn, and now looks particularly suited to address the new wave of next-generation network buildout. (See Mais Alors! Alcatel Bags $1.7B SBC Deal , Vendors Detail Gear in BT VOIP Trials, Alcatel in M&A Frenzy, Alcatel Sticks to Core Plans, Alcatel Denies iMagic Fadeout, and Alcatel Offloads Optical Fiber Biz.) In the dark days of the telecom depression, this long-standing CEO has shown many of the other major vendors how to do it right (see Alcatel Turns a Corner, Alcatel Optical Is in the Noir, and Alcatel Reports 'Solid' Q3 Results).
- Mike Volpi, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)
Yes, Mike Volpi. To those who were thinking it would be Cisco CEO John Chambers, we say: too obvious a choice -- and less important to the telecom-focused Light Readers. Volpi, after all, spearheaded Cisco's move into the telecom world when he led the corporate M&A strategy with aggressive moves such as the $7 billion purchase of Cerent Corp. that put Cisco on the telecom map. And now, it's Volpi who is guiding Cisco's ongoing moves to develop world-class telecom routing products.
Case in point is the CRS-1, Cisco's new core router that is the most important new telecom product in many years, and which, according to CEO Chambers, represents the next phase of Cisco's development. The CRS-1 is Volpi's baby, and it required a major shift in philosophy and design (see Carriers Weigh Savings With Cisco CRS-1, Chambers Expects Cisco Dominance, and Cisco Unveils the HFR). It's Volpi's drive and vision that have made it happen.
That's it for now. Stay tuned, the rest of the Leading Lights finalists will be announced throughout the week.
— The Staff, Light Reading