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Zander Steps Down as Moto CEO

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) CEO Ed Zander is stepping down to be replaced by current COO Greg Brown, a move analysts believe could lead to a sell-off of some Motorola assets.

Brown will succeed Zander as CEO on January 1, 2008, the company announced this morning. Zander will continue to serve as chairman until the annual meeting of stockholders in May 2008.

Zander has faced constant pressure to step down during the past year. The ex-Sun Microsystems Inc. executive had been riding high since joining Motorola as CEO in 2004, thanks to the success of the RAZR phone and the rise of Motorola's mobile devices division.

Zander and his team couldn't keep that streak alive, however, and the device division has seen its fortunes fall. (See Motorola Profit Falls 48% and The Perils of Being Slim.) This led to billionaire financier Carl Icahn calling for a seat on the Motorola board, possibly with the goal of ousting Zander. Icahn didn't succeed in his boardroom bid.(See Icahn Buys Moto Shares and The Wrath of Icahn.) Nonetheless, Zander is now leaving Motorola, saying officially that he plans to spend more time with his family. Some analysts think the changes won't stop there. "We believe Greg Brown's initial and primary focus will be to turn the Mobile Devices business around," a process "which we do not see an immediate fix for and still believe will take the better part of 2008," writes UBS Research analyst, Maynard Um, in a research note.

Um also thinks "some potential sales of non-core assets" are possible, although he admits "a sale in current market conditions could be a challenge."

A note from CIBC World Markets gets even more drastic. Noting that Brown has merger and acquisition experience -- the $3.9 billion Symbol Technologies purchase being one example -- analyst Ittai Kidron writes that "the possibility of a break-up could be one that comes to light over the next 6 months."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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