Monday, June 20, 2005

Nortel AGMs: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Mark Evans


Three years ago, Nortel held its AGM in Halifax. It was a raucous affair that lasted 4.5 hours as shareholder activist Robert Verdun peppered CEO Frank Dunn with questions about the company's financial statement, while fending off the Roberts Rules objections raised by chairman Red Wilson. Anyone who thought Nortel's 2004 and 2005 AGMs next week would be a walk in the park will be disappointed. In a press release today, the company said the event in suburban Toronto is "expected to last most of the day". Given it starts at 10 a.m., you wonder if there will be a couple intermissions, and whether they will be serving lunch and dinner. If Nortel is smart, it will take its lumps from shareholders, and not attempt to orchestrate the meeting. This means accepting the fact angry, disappointed and puzzled shareholders will have plenty of questions about the company's accounting scandal, the firing of Dunn, and the vision for the future. If Nortel follows this advice, it could score some much-needed points with investors and analysts.

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