Alca-Lu chooses Camus as chairman, Verwaayen CEO

Franco-American telecoms equipment company Alcatel Lucent has named former BT Group PLC head Ben Verwaayen as Chief Executive Officer and Philippe Camus as non-executive Chairman, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

They replace Patricia Russo and Serge Tchuruk, who resigned at the end of July after six loss-making quarters. This quashes the rumours that had been circulating that former senior Alcatel-Lucent executive Mike Quigley was favourite for the CEO job.

The Dow Jones Newswire quoted Verwaayen saying in a conference call that the company 'has a very clear path to success.' While he added that he'd look at the cost base, he claimed 'cost-cutting is never a goal." We're here to create something,' and wouldn't comment on whether he intended to get rid of jobs or sell off assets.

Alcatel-Lucent's targets for 2008 is a 2% to 5% decline in revenue, an adjusted operating margin in the mid single-digit range and an adjusted gross operating margin 'in the mid thirties,' Dow Jones says.

Camus is a 60 years old French national living in the US. He was co-CEO at EADS, he is currently also a co-managing partner of Lagardere SCA, as well as a partner of Evercore Partners, a New York based investment and advisory firm.

The news was welcomed by the markets and will be particularly popular with French shareholders who severely criticised Russo for her lack of French language skills.

However, EADS is only now emerging from the shambles surrounding Airbus and the co-CEO structure (the other was a German national, as agreed when EADS was created) led to a lot of duplicated effort and internal strife.

We can only hope that the US-resident Frenchman will be more successful at straddling these two cultures from his base in New York.

Dutchman Verwaayen, 56, led BT from February 2002 until 1 June 1 this year and surprised many by his decision to leave his post early. He will be based in Paris.

BT's new CEO, Ian Livingston, had the unenviable task of delivering a miserable set of first quarter results at the beginning of August: the UK's incumbent's shares are around half of what they were a year ago and the outlook is bleak. Certainly questions hover over Verwaayen's long term legacy at BT as he takes up his new role.