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9/2/2008
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Struggling Alcatel-Lucent Names Top Executives

New CEO Ben Verwaayen and Philippe Camus will preside over a company whose core was once the manufacturing heart of the old AT&T.

Moving quickly to fill the vacancies at its top management rung, Alcatel-Lucent's board of directors said Tuesday that it has named telecommunications industry veteran Ben Verwaayen as it new chief executive officer.

While Verwaayen, a Dutch national, will be based in Paris, he brings to the post experience with Lucent where he worked in executive positions in the firm's U.S. operations beginning in 1997 until he joined BT in 2002. He also held high positions at ITT and the Netherlands PTT Telecom. He left BT in June 2008.

Alcatel-Lucent's directors also named Philippe Camus, a French national who has extensive investment and aerospace executive experience, to the non-executive post of Chairman. Camus, co-managing partner of Lagardere Group and Evercore Partners, is based in New York.

Alcatel acquired Lucent Technologies, once the manufacturing heart of the old AT&T, in 2006, but the combine has been racked with management bickering between the French and American units as the stock plunged 60% amid regular financial warnings from the company. The two previous top executives, CEO Patricia Russo, formerly head of Lucent Technologies, and Chairman Serge Tchuruk, left their posts under fire in July.

The Alcatel-Lucent directors heaped praise on the new executives.

"Philippe Camus and Ben Verwaayen are respected and experience business leaders," the board said in a statement. "Philipe Camus has experience in several high-tech global industries, including the fast-growing media sector, as well as in managing multi-cultural environment. Ben Verwaayen's years of experience in this industry have given him great insight into Alcatel-Lucent."

At the time of the merger of the two companies, the acquisition was billed as a merger of equals. Now, with two Europeans at the helm, Alcatel-Lucent has a decidedly European flavor. The U.S. operation was once the core of AT&T's old Western Electric manufacturing operation, which was broken up over the years after the AT&T monopoly itself was broken up more than two decades ago. Lucent's stock soared during the telecommunications bubble in the late 1990s only to collapse in the early 2000's as the bubble deflated.

The Alcatel-Lucent board was reported to have zeroed in on Verwaayen and another former Lucent executive, Mike Quigley, in July. In the end, Verwaayen got the job.

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