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Motorola taps ex-Sun exec Zander as CEO

Motorola Inc.  on Tuesday officially ended three generations of leadership under the founding Galvin family, naming former Sun Microsystems Inc.  President Edward Zander as its chairman and chief executive.
/ Source: Reuters

Motorola Inc., struggling to regain its once lofty position as the world’s biggest cell-phone maker, on Tuesday named former Sun Microsystems Inc. President Edward Zander as its chairman and chief executive.

The move ended three generations of leadership under the founding Galvin family. Zander, now at private equity firm Silver Lake Partners, will join Motorola on Jan. 5.

Chairman and CEO Christopher Galvin announced his planned departure in September, citing strategic differences with the board. As Motorola struggles with delivery problems of some wireless phones, Wall Street saw the leadership succession issue as crucial to the Schaumburg, Illinois, company’s growth prospects.

In his first interview since being named CEO, Zander said he does not underestimate the challenges ahead.

“It’s clear, obviously, that there’s room for improvement on execution and a sharp focus on what we’ve got to do,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. “There’s been some missed things on products and some of the other areas.”

“There’s clearly a challenge here,” he added. “I’m not going to underestimate that, but it’s a challenge worth taking.”

Zander, who said he is still formulating his vision for the company, cited Motorola’s rich heritage, strong technology and global presence as reasons for taking the job.

Galvin, whose grandfather founded the company and father built it into a technology powerhouse, has been CEO since January 1997 and chairman since June 1999.

Zander, 56, will need to move quickly to decide on which businesses Motorola should focus, analysts said. The month after Galvin’s exit announcement, Motorola revealed plans to spin off the semiconductor unit, a move many analysts and investors had long wanted.

Zander was picked over Motorola President Mike Zafirovski, who was seen as another likely candidate after leading the cell phone business back to profitability before his promotion last year. Analysts had expected Zafirovski, 50, to leave if he was not named CEO, but the company said he will remain in his current position.

Zander was at network computer maker Sun for 15 years, but left last year after it became clear he would not become CEO any time soon.

As Motorola wrestled with the slowdown in telecoms spending over the past few years, investors questioned Galvin’s ability to make the necessary hard choices.

Motorola’s cell-phone business, its largest unit, has had some success with a return to profits and the debut of some highly touted models.

However, the unit has grappled with delays in deliveries of hot-selling models and faces stiff competition from hard-charging South Korean rivals Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and LG Electronics Ltd., as well as its larger Finnish competitor, Nokia.

Some investors had pushed for an outsider with fresh ideas, untainted by a company past that saw Motorola lose its cell phone leadership to Nokia. Others had argued Zafirovski had a strong track record and qualified as an outsider because he arrived at Motorola only three years ago, from General Electric Co.

Zander has more than 25 years of experience in technology companies. Prior to Silver Lake, Zander was president of Sun until June 2002.

During his tenure, Sun grew to $18 billion in revenue and leadership in the server market. He oversaw day-to-day operations, including manufacturing, research and development, and sales and marketing. Prior to joining Sun, he held positions at Apollo Computer and Data General.