The 2008 Leading Lights Finalists

Anil D. Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Communications
Reliance Communications Ltd. has it all: Enviable growth, strong financial performance, international expansion, and a family feud so bitter it makes the political fights here seem like child's play. At the center of it all sits Anil D. Ambani, the man who is never content to simply kick back and watch the value of his telecom empire grow organically. With "Big Ambition" listed as a core tenet of the company, Ambani has pushed India's top integrated telco to be bigger, more diversified, and more profitable in 2008. (See Reliance Feud Kills MTN Deal, Reliance Creates Globalcom, and Reliance Buys Vanco.)

Simon Beresford-Wylie, CEO, Nokia Siemens Networks
Beresford-Wylie gets a huge amount of credit for doing what, thus far, Alcatel-Lucent's managers have failed to do. He has been decisive about declaring where Nokia Networks needs to cut back, and in spelling out what its R&D priorities are. He's been outspoken about applying some discipline to vendor pricing in emerging markets and has said he won't tolerate loss-leader contracts just for the sake of building market share. That takes guts. And we think NSN's in good hands. Better than if it were led by that Rudi Lamprecht character, anyhow. (See Nokia Siemens Confirms PON Plans , Siemens Seeks Damages From NSN Vice Chairman, and Nokia Siemens CEO Slams 'Silly Pricing'.)

Ashraf M. Dahod, President and CEO, Starent Networks
Starent Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: STAR)'s CEO is a star in the mobile data market, even if he is a bit behind the scenes compared to his OEM customers. We can't narrow down a single event that puts Dahod on our list this year, but we note that the circumstances that have tested his leadership this year are remarkably similar to what our previous winner, Infinera CEO Jagdeep Singh, faced -- and Dahod's handling his company with a similarly solid leadership style. Wireless data services will grow, and Dahod has Starent right where it needs to be to benefit from infrastructure upgrades happening all over the world. (See Starent Reports Q2, All-IP Architectures Square Off, and Starent's Double Whammy.)

Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission (Information Society and Media)
Viviane Reding is in favor of intense broadband competition and open access networks. And we're in favor of hell-raising regulators who actually get respect from -- and are taken seriously by -- the telecom community. Pretty simple, eh? (See Open Access: Europe's Secret Weapon?, Reding Back on Attack, and EC Stays Firm on FTTH.)

Andy Rubin, Senior Executive Director of Mobile Platforms, Google
With Android's long-awaited arrival on the market, we're celebrating Andy Rubin's vision of a world with network-connected devices that serve as a platform for even more innovation. However, we distance ourselves from his quirkiness, his bizarre work habits, his fashion choices, his tendency to sleep in his office, etc. Also, it frightens us when a man that obsessed with robots becomes wealthy. (See Android Lands in London and Google: Android's Not Evil.)

Solomon Trujillo, CEO, Telstra
Sol Trujillo is a controversial figure. Protests over his salary have garnered media attention, and a Google search quickly turns up a documentary criticizing his past management of a San Diego-area company. But Trujillo has delivered on his talk of Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS)'s transformation. No other carrier has pushed harder to get mobile broadband as widely deployed. One analyst says "the newest, fastest releases of HSPA [high-speed packet access] always go into the Telstra network first." Trujillo travels all over talking up the company's take-rate for mobile broadband and widely criticizing its regulators for what he feels is an environment that doesn't spur on the growth of fiber-to-the-home networks. Most recently, he signed off on a swath of job cuts that include managers, but not those "customer-facing" employees. (See Sol Trujillo, CEO, Telstra and Telstra CEO: Survival of the Bravest.)

Ben Verwaayen, CEO, Alcatel-Lucent
While former BT chief Ben Verwaayen could be on an unpronounceable island somewhere sipping cocktails, we have to admire the man's tenacity for all things telecom. He came back from an easy-street retirement to lead one of the most troubled companies in the sector, giving him yet another reason to visit lovely New Jersey. While he's still getting used to his new office, his track record at BT gives us reason to be optimistic. Why, when we heard he was taking the Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) job, we said: "Well, they must be giving him a lot of money." Oh, and that he's a nice guy, too. That sort of stuff. (See Verwaayen Takes the Helm at AlcaLu, The Diary of Ben V., Age 56, and Big Ben Plays It Safe.)

Ren Zhengfei, CEO, Huawei Technologies
We'll call this the fear factor finalist. We don't know much about Zhenfei personally, as he declined an invitation to be in our fantasy football pool. And we note with some amusement that his name doesn't even appear in the company's annual reports. But we've all seen evidence of his leadership and influence when charting Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. 's incredible momentum. Someone has to get credit for Huawei coming around again and again to be the leader, and often the spoiler, in several huge telecom networks around the world, and we think Zhengfei's the guy. (See Huawei Reports 2007 Revenues of $12.5B and Heavy Reading Homes In on Huawei.)

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Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:30:17 PM
re: The 2008 Leading Lights Finalists This category is tougher for me, this year. Last year I thought Jagdeep Singh deserved it hands-down.

Rubin is gonna win the reader poll just on Google/Android name recognition. Not sure he's the slam-dunk pick, though.

I like having Ben V. on the list, but ... has he actually done anything at AlcaLu yet? Maybe he's more a 2009'er.
gbmorrison 12/5/2012 | 3:30:16 PM
re: The 2008 Leading Lights Finalists Can anybody out there give us an insider's view of his time and impact while at BT? Is he more like a figurehead or did the rank and file and the engineers respect him or...? The perception of a guy like him can be REALLY different from the outside and in his press, vs. what's said in the halls and cubicles....
digits 12/5/2012 | 3:30:15 PM
re: The 2008 Leading Lights Finalists "I like having Ben V. on the list, but ... has he actually done anything at AlcaLu yet?"

Yes - he accepted the job. That's worth a medal by itself, no?

He is also, I hear, putting the wind up a few people who are used to working and reacting at their own pace -- now they have to work at Big Ben's pace, which is somewhat faster than some of the Paris lifers are used to...

As for his impact at BT, the inside view is not consistent. Some rate him highly, others thought him lucky with his timing.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:30:04 PM
re: The 2008 Leading Lights Finalists I'd asked before, but I'll give it another shot:

Should we have included Juniper's SRX for best product? Did we blow it big-time here? All sane, civil opinions welcome.
GeraldL 12/5/2012 | 3:24:53 PM
re: The 2008 Leading Lights Finalists You spoke out of my heart what you wrote about "this Rudi Lamprecht character"... Suggest him for the lifetime "Razzie" award
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