Australia’s largest operator Telstra today named controversial former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop to a new role of group executive for technology, innovation and strategy.

Elop (pictured) served as Nokia’s CEO and orchestrated Microsoft’s acquisition of the Finnish firm’s mobile phone and devices business in 2013. Upon closure of the Microsoft deal, he became EVP of the Microsoft devices group and served in that role until July of last year when he left as part of a management reshuffle.

He joins Telstra on 4 April.

“Stephen will immediately add major firepower to our team with his extensive and deep technology experience and an innate sense of customer expectations,” said Andrew Penn, Telstra CEO.

However, many in Finland express less admiration for Elop, the first non-Finn to head the country’s most prestigious company. His tenure saw falling revenue and profit, culminating in the handset sale to Microsoft.

Prior to joining Nokia, Elop was president of the Microsoft business division. He also was COO at Juniper Networks and held senior positions at Adobe and Macromedia.

He will report directly to Penn and be based jointly in the US and Australia.

Penn said Elop was a “significant appointment reinforcing Telstra’s ambitions to be a world-class technology company”.

The technology, innovation and strategy portfolio brings together Telstra’s chief technology office, chief scientist, its software group and corporate strategy, with links into product development functions.

New retail head
Telstra also named Kevin Russell as group executive for its retail unit, which includes the company’s consumer, business, stores and product functions.

Russell has held executive roles for Singtel Optus, most recently as country chief officer and CEO for consumer, Australia, as well as senior positions at Hutchison Whampoa Group in Australia and internationally. He also had held senior roles in the US, Europe and the Middle East.

Russell, who joins next month and will also report directly to Penn, is currently CEO for a Silicon Valley-based technology startup.

He replaces Karsten Wildberger, who resigned in December and will return to Europe in April.