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Zafirovski New Nortel CEO

Mike Zafirovski, 51, is to be the new president and CEO of Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), replacing 65-year-old Bill Owens on November 15.

Zafirovski's name has been linked with the position for nearly a year, becoming a chief contender after leaving Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), where he was chief operating officer. (See Nortel's CEO: Next to Go? and Moto COO Quits.)

In a prepared statement, Nortel's chairman Harry J. Pearce said Zafirovski is "the right leader to build on the important work of Bill Owens -- and take Nortel to the next level."

Having endured a damaging accounting scandal as it tried to cope with the telecom downturn, Nortel is now trying to restructure itself to attack growth markets like the large enterprise sector. (See Nortel Reorganizes Again , Enterprises: More Fiber in the Diet? , and Nortel's Pretty Penny.)

The news sent Nortel's share price up by 5 cents, nearly 2 percent, to $3.30 in pre-market trading.

In Nortel's prepared statement, Zafirovski stated: "I've had the privilege, through my career of working for organizations whose success was based on understanding and leveraging tremendous internal brainpower and human capital. And that's why I'm so excited about Nortel. I see those same characteristics at play. They're the foundation of Nortel's tradition of leadership and innovation, its global presence and its iconic status for technical excellence...

"Candidly, there are very few companies that combine Nortel's rich legacy of innovative leadership and customer base with its enviable position in the world's most important and fastest growing markets. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the global and dynamic team of men and women at Nortel."

He added that Owens, who was widely regarded as a stop-gap leader when he replaced disgraced CEO Frank Dunn in April 2004, "is leaving a company uniquely positioned for the future that can capitalize on vital opportunities around the world. His dedication and results are both evident as well as significant, and I thank him for his support and contributions."

Despite the positive words, though, Zafirovski will know he has a number of key areas to address, as some recent admissions have shown. (See Nortel CEO: We Blew It on DSL and Nortel Suffers China 3G Setback.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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