New book claims Microsoft's Stephen Elop wasn't a 'Trojan horse' at Nokia - just a bad CEO

Much has been said over the years about Stephen Elop, the former chief executive of Nokia. Elop stepped into that role at Nokia in September 2010, after leaving his position as head of the Microsoft Business Division, where he had overall responsibility for key products including the Office suite. His arrival at Nokia came six months before he ultimately binned the company's smartphone strategy in favor of adopting Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 OS instead. 

Elop's all-hands memo in February 2011 described Nokia's precarious market situation as standing on a "burning platform", and he rallied the troops to come together and leap off into the great unknown before the fires of failure consumed them all. But as Nokia jumped off the platform and into the open arms of Microsoft, many soon began speculating that Elop had been 'planted' at Nokia as a Trojan horse to lead the company to ruin in the hopes that Microsoft could buy it for a song.

The Elop-as-Trojan-horse accusations have done the rounds many, many times - particularly since Microsoft finally acquired Nokia's devices business earlier this year, and the man himself returned to Microsoft, where he is now Executive Vice President of its Devices & Services division. But is there really any truth to it all? 

A new book - written by two journalists from Finnish business newspaper Kauppalehti - refutes these Trojan horse claims wholeheartedly. But their assessment of Elop's tenure at Nokia is far less flattering than even those accusations made out. 

As Finnish broadcaster Yle points out, Operation Elop, written by Pekka Nykänen and Merina Salminen, depicts him not as the brilliant architect of a daring plan to undermine the world's largest phone maker in order to facilitate a takeover by Microsoft, but as a blundering nincompoop, who stumbled from one bad move to another. 

"By many measures, Elop is one of the world's worst - if not the worst - chief executives," the book states. They also claim that Elop singularly failed in his mission to turn around the company's fortunes. "When Elop started Nokia's smartphone sales were growing. Elop's job was to plug the holes. No explanations needed. He failed on his own," they said, insisting that the blame could not fall upon the decisions made by his predecessor, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo. 

Even the 'burning platform' memo is harshly criticized as "a legendary example of how a CEO can destroy everything in just one stroke." But the authors also stated: "Elop's role can be summarised accordingly: he failed in his attempts to save Nokia. He made monumental mistakes - but all in good faith." 

The authors interviewed over a hundred people as part of their research for the book, including many who had previously worked for Nokia - although it appears that they did not speak to Elop himself. Nonetheless, the unanimous verdict of those interviewed is that there is no truth whatsoever to the allegation that he was a Trojan horse. 

However, the book's final insult to Elop is not merely the claim that he failed, but that "someone else could have saved Nokia's phone business." Whether or not that's really true is no doubt something that will be debated for many years to come. 

Source: Yle | upper image via Geeky Gadgets

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