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When The Wall Street Journal reported that Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) is looking for a new CEO to replace underperformer Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, the stock jumped as much as 5% higher the next day. If you're Olli-Pekka, that vote of no confidence from the market has got to hurt.
Unfortunately, the headhunters out there may be right. Kallasvuo was a hero to Nokia in the early days, reinforcing a dominant position in the global cell phone market and some impressive stock returns. But ever since Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) joined the party with the first iPhone, Nokia has struggled to keep up with the cool kids. All told, Nokia shares have lost more than half their value since Kallasvuo took the wheel, including a gut-wrenching 30% fall in 2010 alone.
It seems like Olli-Pekka is ill-equipped to fight a band of innovative buccaneers like Apple and the Android marauders from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) . He joined Nokia as a lawyer long ago and has served as CFO in two separate stints. It's an honorable resume but hardly one that shouts "Innovator!" at you. He's got the wrong skill set for this particular era in mobile history.
The WSJ says that at least two high-profile executives from North America have visited Nokia's Finnish headquarters so far, pointing to a desire to finally grab a hold of the vibrant American market. Here's my short list of who Nokia should pay a big enough fortune to make 'em move to Finland:
- Andy Rubin of Android fame sits right at the top of my wish list. He's created an empire out of nothing once before; imagine what he could do with a running start like Nokia's global market reach.
- Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) has two CEOs. Jim Balsillie would be Kallasvuo 2.0, but Mike Lazaridis has the tech-savvy know-how to do something special if he were running the show alone. This choice could make Nokia a BlackBerry-friendly zone, and that's not a bad move if you want to play in North America.
- If Steve Jobs isn't going to retire anytime soon, perhaps Apple COO Tim Cook could be cajoled into stepping out of the Turtlenecked-One's shadow. Cook is more of an efficiency expert than an outright innovator, but you don't get to run Apple in Steve's absence -- twice -- without some creative chops.
There are many more possible candidates: top names from next-generation wireless provider Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR ) spring to mind, as do former Palm hotshots ready to follow the brain-drain trend under Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ ) regime. Any of these choices would go a long way to cement Nokia's relevance to the American market.
Thinking further outside the box, Nokia could even go with a proven innovator from a different industry such as Hansen Natural (Nasdaq: HANS ) CEO Rodney Sacks, who clearly understands American consumers and has no problem bucking age-old industry conventions.
Who's your pick to replace poor old Olli-Pekka? Drop your names in the comments below.