French-American culture clash

A trans-Atlantic culture clash at Alcatel-Lucent, the French-American telecommunications equipment maker created in a $10.7 billion merger two years ago, hit home when the company’s top two executives said they would step down.

Patricia F. Russo, the American chief executive, and Serge Tchuruk, the French chairman, said they would leave this year. The departures of the two executives, who engineered the original deal, follow months of pressure from shareholders upset over billions of dollars in losses since the companies combined.

Analysts were skeptical from the start about the acquisition of Lucent Technologies, based in Murray Hill, N.J., by Alcatel, based in Paris. Initial talks broke down in 2001, four years before a deal was announced, because executives at the two companies could not agree on how to share control. (…) “[I]f you take two guys with broken legs and tie a rope around them, they aren’t going to walk better,” Mr. Kerravala said.

The appointment of Ms. Russo, the former Lucent chief, as the leader of the combined company struck many as a recipe for misunderstandings. Ms. Russo does not speak French comfortably, and the language barrier is one of several cultural challenges that have troubled the company.

Roger Entner, a senior vice president and telecommunications analyst for Nielsen IAG, a market research firm, said that Lucent executives had also struggled to understand the close interplay between French bureaucrats and private-sector executives.

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