Nokia today announced it is losing another senior executive: Esko Aho, who had once been the prime minister of Finland and is currently EVP, corporate relations and responsibility and a member of Nokia’s leadership team, is leaving the beleaguered handset maker for Harvard University. There, he will be the Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School for public policy. He had been with Nokia since 2008 and a member of the executive team since 2009.
In his role at Nokia, Aho had overseen the company’s global policies and activities regarding sustainable development and social responsibility. Although his departure may not appear as destabilizing as some other executive exits — Colin Giles, Nokia’s EVP of sales, is leaving at the end of June and is not being replaced — it is still a sign of how much the company is shedding the old guard as it looks to turn its struggling business around.
On a wider scale, Nokia has lost about 9,000 employees in the last year, according to the FT, and may well reduce its 122,000 headcount even more in the months ahead.
Nokia said in an emailed statement that Aho will leave the company at the end of August, but that he will remain involved as a consultant on public affairs (i.e., lobbying the Finnish government, or advising on how best to?).
Nokia has been on a steady decline in its mobile phone business — and has struggled particularly in the area of smartphones, where it has lost market share to Apple and to Android handset makers like Samsung. This quarter, by many estimates, Samsung overtook Nokia as the world’s biggest mobile phone company.
Under its latest CEO, Stephen Elop, Nokia has been trying to turn that trend around and has put his former employer Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS at the core of that strategy, although judging by its latest quarterly earnings, where sales fell by more than $4 billion, that plan has yet to bear significant and ripe fruit.