Nokia Chairman Will Stay Until Spring 2012 to Aid CEO Transition

Nokia Chairman Ollila Will Stay Until Spring 2012 to Aid CEO Elop Transition
Nokia Chairman Ollila Will Stay Until Spring 2012 to Aid CEO Elop Transition

Nokia (NOK) sent Wall Street a clear signal Tuesday that its transition to a new CEO won't be a rudderless effort, revealing that its longtime Chairman Jorma Ollila will remain on board through spring 2012, according to an Associated Press report.

Last week, when Nokia announced Stephen Elop (left) would assume the CEO post on Sept. 21, Ollila (right) gave investors no definitive indication about how long he'd be willing to stay to aid in the transition.

In addressing that question last week during a webcast to announce Elop's hiring, Ollila said:

The board asked me to stay as chairman for a transition period [after stepping down as CEO in 2006]. I sort of said that five years seems a lot and two years reasonably short. So, we had quite a discussion earlier this year because the time was up. But the board did want me to continue because this was a particularly difficult time. My time will be up soonest. I agreed to help Stephen with the transition and the board has very much wanted me to do exactly that. No time has been set [however] to help make sure everything goes well with the transition.

Tuesday's announcement clears up the mystery, which may help calm investors' nerves if they're concerned about Elop's lack of experience in the telecommunications sector. Their next question is likely to be whether Elop, who spent most of his career in software, has the vision to transform Nokia again as Ollila did. Before stepping down from his CEO role in 2006, Ollila transformed the former rubber boot maker into a TV powerhouse, then pushed it into the mobile phone industry, where it captured the biggest chunk of worldwide market share, notes a CNBC report.

Playing Catch-Up With iPhone, Android

Elop replaced embattled Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, who missed several trends in the mobile handset industry that caught Nokia and other industry heavyweights flat-footed: Apple's (AAPL) iPhone took the smartphone world by storm with its touchscreen display, and handsets using Google's (GOOG) rival mobile operating system, Android, are siphoning market share from Nokia's Symbian-based phones.

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However, on Tuesday, Nokia launched a slew of new phones during its annual Nokia World, including the Nokia E7 with its Clear Black Display (CBD) designed to go head-to-head with the iPhone 4's Retina display, noted Engadget.

Anssi Vanjoki, who heads the company's smartphone business, served as Nokia World's opening keynote speaker, given that both Elop and Kallasvuo were both absent, CNBC noted. Vanjoki, too, is a short-timer, having announced earlier Monday that he was resigning. With all these changes at the top, its understandable why news that someone with a little institutional knowledge is sticking around a bit longer is a very good thing.