Nortel chief Zafirovski quits amidst bankruptcy

When 15 year-old Mike Zafirovski's family immigrated to the US from Yugoslavia in 1969 with just $1,500, little did he think that he would be one day head iconic Canadian company Nortel and oversee the bankruptcy protection filing of the first major technology company this year, leading to his resignation.

Zafirovski, a former senior executive with Motorola, who was hired in 2005 by Nortel Networks Corporation as its president and chief executive, resigned yesterday after having failed to turn the 127-year old company around amid the global economic and financial crisis and expensive payouts in litigations.

On Monday, Toronto-based Nortel said Zafirovski is stepping down effective immediately, and the company will reduce its board size from nine to three members.

In January 2009, Nortel, once the largest company in Canada, sought bankruptcy court protection in Canada, the US and Europe after having amassed $6.3 billion debt and failed to restructure the company. (See: Nortel files for bankruptcy protection in Canada, US and Europe)

Zafirovski said, "I am extremely proud to have been associated with this company. The Board members and I came to Nortel because we really believed in the value of Nortel's people and technology. Although solid progress was made in many areas, at the end, the capital structure and legacy costs coupled with the economic downturn proved too difficult to surmount." 

He added, "Most importantly, I really want to thank our dedicated employees for their commitment and professionalism throughout a very challenging time. I will miss them and I am proud to have been associated with them and to know that so many of them will carry on their innovative work under new banners.''