Nortel Enterprise Chief To Join Avaya As Head Of Government Programs

The move, indicated in an internal memo from Avaya's top brass obtained by and later confirmed by a spokesperson from Avaya, dispels rumors that Hackney would exit the company following the successful acquisition of his Nortel unit by Avaya.

According to the memo, which is from Avaya President and CEO Kevin Kennedy, Hackney's official title will be senior vice president and president of Avaya Government Solutions and Data.

Hackney's role will be to oversee the combined government-focused organizations within Avaya and Nortel, and he will also lead efforts to integrate Nortel's data businesses with Avaya.

The memo, in which Kennedy congratulates the Avaya senior management team for "positive energy" during the acquisition process, also confirms that Wes Durow, Nortel Enterprise vice president of global marketing, will join Avaya as vice president of marketing, reporting to Todd Abbott, Avaya's senior vice president and president, field operations.

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Further, Kennedy names more than 20 Nortel executives, from areas like supply chain, R&D, unified communications and product quality, who will be joining Avaya after the closing. They include Francois Lancon, vice president of APAC; Araldo Menegon, vice president of North America Data Sales; three vice presidents of Global Support Services (Dan Connor, Carelyn Monroe and Ashley Saunders), and David Downing, vice president and general manager, unified communications.

Kennedy also states in the memo that Avaya has received a 96 percent acceptance rate from the Nortel employees to which it has offered jobs, and combined with Nortel Government Solutions, that means more than 5,900 Nortel employees are set to join Avaya.

Spokespersons from both Nortel and Avaya confirmed Hackney's move.

Avaya was announced on September 14 as the winning bidder, for $915 million, of Nortel's enterprise business. On Wednesday of this week, the acquisition received approval under the Investment Canada Act -- one of the final OKs Avaya needs to finish the acquisition.

It means that Avaya has now cleared regulatory review hurdles in the U.S., Canada and the European Union, and expects the acquisition to be completed by the end of December.

Nortel filed for bankruptcy in January 2009, and the sell-off of Nortel has continued apace throughout 2009, with various business units sold or in the process of being sold to not only Avaya but also Ericsson, Kapsch, Ciena and Hitachi.

Kennedy's memo does not disclose anything about the Avaya-Nortel combined product roadmap, which is a key concern of both Avaya and Nortel VARs, and was top of mind at Avaya's 2010 Americas Partner Conference in Nashville this past October.

At the conference, Avaya's channel management assured VARs that the transition would be as smooth as possible and that the Nortel acquisition would help Avaya reach a goal of being 85 percent direct sales by 2012.

Solution providers contacted by Thursday were tentative, at best, on their endorsement of Hackney's new role.

On the government side, Nortel partners acknowledged the challenges of transitioning to Hackney and away from Chuck Saffell, Nortel Government Solutions chief, who was well respected in the channel.

Saffell was not listed on the Avaya memo detailing executives from Nortel who were moving to Avaya.

"He's [Hackney] got big shoes to fill. Chuck Saffell had an organization that was extremely loyal to him," said Stuart Chandler, president and CEO of Optivor, an Ellicott, Md.-based solution provider. "Hackney is going to have to make sure everyone knows they can trust him."

A solution provider who asked to remain anonymous was less charitable toward Hackney's new role, choosing to lump him in with departed CEO Mike Zafirovski. (Zafirovski stepped down from Nortel in August following a failure to turn the telecom giant's fortunes around through an effective restructuring.)

"I have no confidence. None," the solution provider said of Hackney. "He was part of the Mike Z. crowd that couldn't turn the ship around. He hasn't worked with the federal sector under Nortel and it is a different animal. It's a purely sales and services entity and a different role."

The product roadmap remains an immediate concern to solution providers. Optivor's Chandler expressed concern about Avaya's distribution relationships.

"Avaya has a closed partner model and they want us to sign up with a closed distributor," he said. "I'd like to see them embrace Nortel's existing distributors and allow us to continue to work with the ones we're currently working with. I've never seen a closed model work all that well. With Avaya absorbing a few hundred million deployed lines, the closed model is going to be very problematic."

Solution providers agreed overall that now that Avaya has cleared regulatory hurdles in its pursuit of Nortel, they hope for a clearer, more explicit message from Avaya on both the channel and the products.

"We get all our information from leaks and on the street," said a solution provider. "They gave a partner briefing a few weeks ago, and it was basically the complete party line. Not as informative as it could have been. We're getting our updates from Google Alerts."