The National Post has a story today speculating that the reason Peter Currie may have decided to step aside as CFO is because he wanted to be CEO. The story hinges on a quote from an unnamed source:
“He’s a very driven guy. He’s left for other challenges before. He’s perhaps been looking to become CEO. I think that’s making more sense to me than other stuff.”
It’s an interesting story but it probably inaccurate. Yes, Currie was interested in become CEO, which is why he likely came back to Nortel in early 2005 while ex-U.S. Admiral Bill Owens was CEO. It was clear to just about everyone that Owens wasn’t going to be a long-term solution so Currie appeared to be his successor after his bid to become CEO of Royal Bank of Canada was unsuccessful.
Currie’s big opportunity to become CEO emerged a few months later when Nortel COO Gary Daichendt, who had his own CEO aspirations, abruptly quit after Nortel’s board refused to push Owens out. Amid this senior management controversy, it may have been the perfect opportunity for Currie to step up to become CEO to give Nortel some much-needed stability. Instead, Nortel’s board allowed Owens to carry on for a few more months until he “retired”, and Mike Zafirovski was hired as his successor.
The fact Currie stuck around for more than a year after Mike Z. came to Nortel’s rescue demonstrates how Currie was determined to finish the job of bringing the company’s finances back from the abyss, which had involved countless restatements after a scandal that allegedly involved the cooking of the books by senior executives (Frank Dunn, et al) to trigger a lucrative bonus structure.