Nokia's radical CEO has a mercenary, checkered past

Some interesting perspective on Nokia's radical new CEO Stephen Elop from 2008, when he left his job of one year running Juniper Networks to work at Microsoft. The article paints a damning picture of a mercenary short-timer who costs his employer huge wads of cash in expenses, cash and bonuses, without delivering, and who leaves the day after he vests:
Stephen Elop is making news by giving up his job as chief operating officer job at Juniper Networks after one year to take over as the top executive of Microsoft's business software division.

The move will actually cut down Elop's commute to work. He lives in Canada...

That's right, Elop was commuting from Canada to Silicon Valley these past two years, and doing it on his employer's dime. First at Adobe Systems, which bought his previous employer Macromedia in late 2005. Adobe paid out $145,149 to cover Elop's commuting from Canada in 2006.

After he had been working at Adobe for about six months, Elop told the company in June 2006 he'd be leaving, setting his departure date as Dec.5, one year to the day since he had been hired. For his year of service, Elop was paid a $500,000 salary and $315,000 bonus. Oh, and got a $1.88 million severance payment, on top of that. And all of his restricted shares vested when he left, despite the original performance strings that had been attached to them.

Microsoft beware: Stephen Elop is a flight risk (via O'Reilly Radar)

(Image: Stephen Elop talking Android, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from gsi-r's photostream)


  1. We Canadians are generally good people, but our monsters are exceptionally monstrous. I blame our basic mathematical literacy combined with our sociopolitical cynicism.

    After all, they’re all finance players.

  2. He’s effectively disemboweled Nokia with his latest move, expect the carcass to squirt out a few WP7 handsets before collapses entirely.

    1. #3

      You got that GD right.

      I’ve often wondered how these assholes do it; going round and fucking companies out of their money with bullshitting.

      But then again, you’d have to be willing to be an asshole and I’m afraid I couldn’t do that.

      You really don’t want to be one of those slick basterds with oily hair and a nice suit do you? They probably need al that dough to hide the fact that they’re miserable….

      *Glad to have that out of my system, thanks*

      1. Sure, but I think many people would take being miserable for a year if it meant you’d make enough money to not ever have to work again in your life – or your kids, or their kids.

        The $2-3 million he made in one year – for not even doing a good job – is enough for a normal person and their kids, and their kids, for life – assuming you’re not too greedy, you invest it, and use it responsibly.

  3. The worst part is this is a Micro$oft clone warrior guy is killing one of the few big free software boosters. Between QT Maemo/Meego and the N700 through N900 series they combined winning hardware an open community and free software to make great open phones now the N9 open flagship phone is DOA days before release. Meego was supposed to be the real Linux phone to the closed non-free Android and iPhone.

    The great thing with what I think will be the chaining of Nokia to Microsoft is they probably get access and maybe even can buy all of those Nokia mobile phone and smartphone patents once they kill Nokia off. That is not so bad for Apple, there is a legal/patent cease fire there, but I think it is a strategic partnership using their guy as a mole to kill Google or at least Android in court if not the free market.

  4. The corporate world gets what it deserves when it hires these guys. I can’t believe the executives/board actually approve this sort of thing. Do the shareholders have any interest or care in what is happening?

  5. It may well be that there is no great master plan behind his actions (killing off Meego and the N9, teaming up with Microsoft), and that he achieved his ascendancy through psychopathic behaviour. Nokia have been duped by a snake in a suit.

    1. Psychopaths and sociopaths have no empathy for other human beings. They really are the center of their own worlds and everyone else is a pawn. Corporate culture, especially in the really big companies, is sociopathic by its very nature. It’s no accident that boards seek out individuals who reflect that nature. Sometimes they choose someone who is in fact a sociopath, rather than merely capable of being ruthless and self-serving. This sounds like a CEO who knew exactly how long it would take before he was ‘unmasked’ and then he would need to be moving on, before he was asked to leave. That would look bad on his resume.

      Reading of the reasons CEO’s leave their positions and where they show up next, has become my idea of arch entertainment over the last decade. I especially like the one where they publicize it’s ‘to spend more time with their families’.

    1. One approach to life in the business world is to learn to be really good at benefiting a business and sell yourself on that excellence.

      The other is to learn to be really good at selling yourself, to the exclusion of all else. If the only thing you ever do is write a great resume and impress the businesses you court, you can talk your way into enough businesses to make yourself rich.

      If your luck ever runs out as the corpses pile up, it doesn’t matter, because you’ve already got much more money in your checking account than most americans have in gross worth when they retire.

    2. They hire him because he and his asshole friends in sother companies all go to the same clubs etc. and are connected. Basically the same as it ever was except with MBA’s instead with barons.

  6. When the “commoners” talk about those “evil” business types, this is the A-hole they are talking about.

    So WHY does this guy get hired? Seriously? He worked a year and received almost 2.7 million for it. That’s more money than most people are going to get working for the next 20 years. He gets a severance package of 1.88 million while the company falls apart and my job gets sent to Mexico (or insert other poor nation)…

  7. Severance payment for what exactly? He quit himself didn’t he? If he was fired then he should be eligible for a severance payment but when quitting on one’s own how can one demand a severance payment on top????

  8. This is *exactly* the kind of sociopath that the Nokia board wanted to bring in to “shake things up,” i.e., slash the payroll and turn the company into a digestible lump that can be sold off for a huge profit (to the board) in a year or two. Same reason Carol Bartz was hired at Yahoo!

    1. I think you are right that hired the guy for two years do all the dirty work, gets a great compensation that was establishment and leaves, and the board can tell the employees they got rid of the mean man that cut their jobs. But I don’t think they are going to sell Nokia, its a restructuring maneuver where one guy as to take all the blames for the cuts.

  9. if you guys remember the history of the silicon vally of last two decades, then I guss you could see the RIP of Nokia pretty soon or atleast the near death experience. Whoever made business handshake with Micro$oft had vampaire bites on their necks, most of them died pretty hard. Some barly escaped. The Apple got cured form the Micro$oft bat fever, and the heavy weight IBM who’s pc segment had bad breath.

    If you guys can remember few names. like nestscape, foxpro, sybase, spider (original IE owner).

    Well guy i am very afraid for Nokia.

    1. I’ve read Stouts’ ‘The Sociopath Next Door’ several times and usually have more than one copy on my library shelves. I give them away to those who may benefit from reading it.

      The part of the article that distinguishs ‘narcissists’ for ‘psychopathy’ is noteworthy. The author suggests that a founding CEO sees the company they built as an extension of their own self-images and are less likely to hurt their companies, or the many people that work for them. Agreed. So…I raised an eyebrow and chuckled to see Larry Ellison hire on poor, maligned Mark ‘The Turd’ Hurd. He really is a hatchet man. He did quite a number on HP, scraping for every dollar he thought he was owed, on his way out the door. Christ, what an asshole!

      1. A while back, I read “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work”, co-authored by Babiak and Hare (of the Psychopathy Checklist fame). In it, they drew a distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy – psychopathy being a personality disorder arising from brain development, but sociopathy being more the result of cultural conditioning and norms (think Goodfellas). Hare is of the opinion that psychopaths are immensely damaging to businesses because they end up being so disruptive socially and because of their reckless, risk-taking behaviour and lack of competence. The people in the shadows behind Nokia were probably looking for a new broom, but ended up with a bloody psychopath. Hare believes that screening out psychopaths is straightforward – you just go through their resume with a fine-tooth comb and check all the references. Nokia obviously did not do this, which is astonishing for an appointment at this level.

  10. And what the scoop should be, exactly?

    This kind of behaviour (ok, maybe minus the commuting) is the norm among “rampant” CEOs and high-tier executives…

    Just think: if they cared about the companies they work for, they would own them, after all.

  11. If by ‘mercenary, checkered past’ you mean ‘was part of the Macromedia mafia’ then what do you expect??

    I mean, WHAT do you expect from a former Macromedia exec? Monsters aren’t born, they’re *raised* and the former $MACR, a parasite now safely nestled within the sickened-since-the-acquisition $ADBE is the culprit. Or don’t you guys remember MM’s nickname on the streets: Micromeanie.

    Before the Facebook mafia you had these jokers. $NOK folks, if you want to know what your fate is, just ask an $ADBE person.

    Here’s some pointers: All your DEV jobs? Off to India & China they go. Marketing folks? You get a budget & fly 1st class. All others fly coach.

    BUT: If you don’t want to become an overseer & add ‘PMP’ to the end of your name? If you like seeing your stock options go underwater? And then spike just before the exec leaves? And then fall to the ‘magic number’ that triggers layoffs anyway? Oh, and there are not enough ‘death marches’ in your life.

    If you don’t like any of this then I suggest you find another job. If, on the other hand you get off on the same type of environment that ‘softies “thrive” in.. if alcohol is your sleepytime tea, then yeah, STICK AROUND FOR THE BUMPY RIDE.

    Seriously, MOST OF YOU remember Adobe before MM. What do you think of that company now?? Just like, and should be acquired by MSFT, amirite? That Steve Jobs all but utterly spurned? Not over Flash, but over the blatant arrogance of the culture of Flash. Here’s a refresher: –partners work together. Adobe just wanted to get its way: like a little MicroMeanie.

    Elop was raised to run a predatory company like Microsoft. Or to destroy the fabric of the current Nokia. Noke folks, you’ve been warned. For everyone else, break out the popcorn & the old Elop data, maybe you can profit off previous history. Mostly by shorting $NOK stock.

    1. Why are the vowels in company names replaced by dollar signs? I haven’t seen that before.

  12. So if the calendar is correct then he was at Microsoft for three and a half years (2007-2010).

    Sorry – I don’t see a checkered past. I see that benefits for executives are too generous.

  13. Yes, this guy essentially sold Nokia to Microsoft for $0.

    On the other hand, don’t forget that Nokia was already in a death spiral. They’re losing smartphone marketshare hand over fist, and their dumbphone market is getting attacked by cheap Chinese imports.

    Sure this sucks for Maemo fan(s), but I still say it’s better than the alternative.

    And hey, if this whole WinPhone7 thing fails, Nokia can still throw out a few Android phones as a last chance desperation move.

  14. If you add the article below from Dr Burch from Auckland, you will see how much value and merit there is your article. You are essentially right about workplace bullying where extreme individuals with a high repeat rate at some one in ten are really “psychopaths”. Well done for bringing this article to my attention too. In the world of law and recruitment and self care, these articles are invaluable.

    Dr Burch said his research shows psychopaths created “toxic workplaces” with bullying, manipulation, sexual harassment, lying and fiddling the books.

    “We all come across people at work from time to time who are difficult, devious and troublesome,” Dr Burch said.

    Dr Burch said most people with personalities generally fitting under the ‘psychopathic umbrella’ do not commit obvious crime and are not imprisoned or hospitalised, but function within normal society – often with apparent success and the respect of their bosses.

    However, workplace psychopaths are generally highly destructive and manipulative individuals with “dark sides” who have no remorse for their actions, which can result in a range of serious issues for organisations and the people within them, Dr Burch says.

    And they’re making you ill, he said.

    Victims suffered insomnia, depression, were more prone to heart attacks could even be traumatised to the point of suicide.

    “Unrelenting stress from a toxic workplace causes anxiety and clinical depression in 30 percent of female and 20 percent of male targets, according to international research. The risk of cardiovascular disease is 30 percent more likely when workers believe their workplace is unjust….”

    Best Regards,


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