Où Est Mike Quigley?
That's a question we've been asking the press relations team at his company, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), in the run-up to NXTcomm in Chicago, where we were hoping to pin Quigley down (not literally) for an interview (as we did on LRTV, back in the day: Full Transcript of LRTV's Interview With Mike Quigley, Alcatel President & COO).
We wanted an interview because Quigley is, in the communications industry, an important person. He is "President, Science, Technology, and Strategy" at the biggest supplier of equipment to the global telecom operator community, so he should have some interesting insights on the market and on how his company is performing since last November's corporate wedding. (See Lucatel's Wedding Reception, Alcatel, Lucent Merge, and Alcatel-Lucent Stays Tight-Lipped.)
But he's become the Harry Houdini of the telecom sector.
His relative absence is notable because, until November last year, he was a high-profile executive, appearing at industry events and commenting during quarterly earnings conference calls. (See Russo, Quigley Go to DC, Quigley: IMS Won't Cure All, Alcatel Battles Margin Pressures, and Quigley Talks IP and M&A.)
Since then the only public sighting we can find of Quigley has been on Australian TV, participating in a panel discussion about broadband deployments. (See Aust left behind on Internet superhighway.)
Such a low profile is intriguing for a man who had been tipped to take over from Serge "The Merge" Tchuruk as the CEO of Alcatel, and who, as a result, was one of the favorites to be le grand fromage at Alcatel-Lucent. (See Lucent & Alcatel: Quigley or Russo? and Alcatel Gets Quigley With It.)
But when the Alcatel/Lucent merger was announced in early April 2006, Russo got the CEO's chair, and Quigley was named Chief Operating Officer designate. (See Alcatel, Lucent Seal Deal.)
Then only a few months later, Quigley relinquished that new post, and took on his current role: "Mike Quigley has decided for personal reasons to assume a different role for the combined company. He will focus on the strategic direction of the company and will become President, Science Technology and Strategy. In this capacity he will devote his attention to assuring that strategic investments align with evolving market opportunities." (See Quigley Steps Down as Lucatel COO.)
Following that announcement he told Light Reading in an exclusive phone interview that he hadn't quit as COO elect because of any clash with Russo, or because he was angry he hadn't been given the CEO seat. Instead, he wanted a role with less direct daily involvement so he could spend more time with his family. He said his job at Alcatel had involved "bouncing back and forth between Paris and Dallas and other places, too. It's not easy, and it's wearing on me and my family -- I have two daughters in Australia." (See Inside Lucatel: Quigley's Not Mad at Pat.)
Now, though, we can't seem to track him down at all.
Alcatel-Lucent's communications team says he isn't going to be at NXTcomm. But that's the only thing they're clear about. The North American PR team has been referring us to Paris when we've asked about chatting with Quigley, while the Paris team says it needs to check with the North American team on his almost certain unavailability.
Even our sources close to Alcatel-Lucent say Quigley has been notably absent, having been missing from analyst and investor days, and not having been seen at key industry events this year.
So as Alcatel-Lucent's PR minders put up the smokescreen, theories emerge about Quigley's current status.
Once source says he has been spending more time in Australia with his family, especially as, the source believes, Quigley has recently become a grandfather. That's from one source, not corroborated, so we'll call it a rumor. And, Alcatel-Lucent says it "doesn't comment on rumors related to personal matters of our executives."
Others believe Quigley is deliberately lying low while Alcatel-Lucent sorts out its post-merger issues, including the culling of at least 12,000 staff. Once Russo has ridden out the storm, sources in the financial community predict Quigley could make a triumphant "Golden Boy" return as the head of a slimmer, more powerful company, reigning back operating expenses, and battling with other growing pains. (See Alcatel-Lucent Suffers Stock Shock , Alcatel-Lucent Job Cull Hits 12,500, AlcaLu Breaks Down (in) 2006, and Merger Tears Into AlcaLu's Sales.)
That, say a number of sources, would be welcomed within at least the former Alcatel part of the new vendor. "He has a very strong following… A lot of Alcatel people are fiercely loyal to Mike," says one former Alcatel employee.
One analyst, speaking anonymously, notes that if, for any reason, Quigley wouldn't be around to take the helm once Russo steps down, which many analysts expect her to do in a few years' time, that would be a "negative" for Alcatel-Lucent.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading