Symbol’s Last Chance

Sept. 15, 2005
Two managements have struck out. The next may be the last chance for one of track & trace’s major players, says The WCCN Letter’s Tom Polizzi.
In an unguarded moment during an interview with a New York newspaper, Bill Nuti reportedly made some statements that were not published. He admitted that Symbol Technologies' problems ran deeper than he had expected. Paraphrased, he reportedly said, "I thought I was coming on board to do far less of a turnaround than I eventually had to do." He admitted that his knowledge then of the company's problems covered "the tip of the iceberg." Nuti allegedly admitted, "Had I known the scope, I wouldn't have come."Last December, Nuti sold all his Symbol stock. In July, his CFO resigned. On July 29th, the International Trade Commission voted to investigate allegations that Symbol had violated U.S. trade practices. On August 1st, concurrent with Symbol announcing a $30 Million 2Qtr loss, Bill Nuti resigned. By August 17th, Symbol and Nuti were sued for allegedly deceptive representation of Symbol's prospects.Bill Nuti is correct in saying that Symbol's problems ran far deeper than "book cooking." The problems created by management errors that pre-dated Nuti's arrival were substantial. Nonetheless, during Nuti's roughly three year tenure at Symbol, and especially during the two years when he had free reign, it became evident that he failed to grasp the root cause of Symbol's problems, the fundamentals of the ADC-ITP business, and the dramatic changes the ADC-ITP industry was undergoing. And, unlike the set of missteps he inherited, Nuti's missteps are arguably far more irreversibly devastating to Symbol.The stark reality is that Nuti left Symbol in far worse shape than it was when he arrived on the scene. He left after putting Symbol's core business in serious jeopardy, and possibly created another scandal.This analyst takes great umbrage at what Nuti has done to the firm that contributed so much to the advancement of enterprise automation. We are of the strong opinion that it does not well-serve the industry to have a crippled Symbol. And, many a Symbol competitor would concur.Extricating Symbol from its disaster trajectory will require replacing Nuti with a well-qualified and talented executive who understands enterprise automation, and ideally has ADC-ITP experience. The worst selection would be to choose another self-proclaimed turnaround manager. But, it may well be near impossible to convince a well-qualified executive to accept the assignment — especially given Symbol's diminished technology leadership role.Compounding the problem is that selection of Nuti's replacement will be made by Symbol's Board of Directors, presumably with advice from Symbol's executive staff (all of whom were selected by Nuti, and have no experience-earned knowledge of the ADC-ITP industry). Yet, unless a Gerstner-type or one of the only three in-industry qualified executives accepts the challenge, arguably, the prudent action would be for Symbol to adopt the “Symbol Retirement Plan” as described in the August 2005 issue of The WCCN Letter. The plan isn’t what you might think. But arguably it may be the only viable Last Chance left for Symbol.Seven pages of the August 2005 issue of The WCCN Letter are devoted to a clinical, in-dept review of the pre-Nuti & post-Nuti problems at Symbol, leading to the Last Chance conclusion. (Information about The WCCN Letter can be found at
About the Author

Thomas A. Polizzi | WCCN Publishing