'Every board chairman would like to be able to leave his successors a flourishing company. I would have hoped to do that.'
Jorma Ollila, who has been Nokia's board chairman since 1999, stepped down Thursday, saying he regretted not leaving the Finnish mobile phone maker he has worked for the past 27 years in better shape.
"Every board chairman would like to be able to leave his successors a flourishing company. I would have hoped to do that," Ollila, who also served as Nokia's chief executive from 1999-2006, told the company's annual general meeting.
Ollila, who remains board chairman at Royal Dutch Shell, had told shareholders a year ago he would resign at Thursday's meeting, so his departure came as no surprise.
His successor, Risto Siilasmaa, who has been a Nokia (IW 1000/61) board member since 2008 and is the founder of Internet security company F-Secure, was set to be voted in later Thursday at the meeting of some 3,300 of the company's shareholders.
Nokia has been losing market share as it struggles to compete in the smartphone sector, and Samsung (IW 1000/12) recently bumped it from the top world ranking in terms of total mobile phone sales, which it had held for 14 years.
It announced disastrous first quarter results in April, posting a net loss of 929 million euros (US$1.2 billion) as sales slumped 30% year-on-year.
The company's chief executive Stephen Elop met criticism from some shareholders over the major restructuring he launched early last year and the phasing out of Nokia's Symbian smartphones in favor of a partnership with Microsoft.
One shareholder pointed to the recent 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, stressing that he hoped there would not be a similar memorial for Nokia a century or so from now.
Elop, a Canadian citizen and a former Microsoft executive, insisted the partnership with Microsoft, which has produced a first line of Lumia smartphones, would pay off, but acknowledged more cost-cutting was ahead.
He compared Nokia to Finnish long-distance runner Lasse Viren, who fell during the 10,000-meter final at the 1972 Olympics but jumped back onto his feet and ran on to take gold and break the world record.
In his farewell speech, Ollila supported Elop and his restructuring efforts.
"The transition phase is really painful. There is no room for complacency," he said.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012