Avaya's COO on what's next

Avaya Chief Operating Officer Mike Thurk discusses where the company goes from now

The US$8.2 billion buyout of Avaya by Silver Lake Partners and the Texas Pacific Group will change how the VOIP vendor will operate and interact with customers. Avaya Chief Operating Officer Mike Thurk discussed where the company goes from here with Network World Senior Editor Phil Hochmuth.

What, if anything, will change for Avaya's enterprise customers as a result of this deal?

We think the company has an opportunity to be even more responsive to our customers, to act quite quickly and responsively with respect to actions we can take within the company. There are always those different quarter-to-quarter pressures when you're in a public environment. From a product standpoint, a services standpoint, both TPG and Silver Lake joined us as partners in going private with the intent of leveraging this asset. They fell very strongly about it. So I think the opportunity, from a customer standpoint, is to see us become more nimble and respond to their requirements even quicker.

What are examples of things Avaya can do now that it couldn't do before?

There are times for example, investments can be made in a private environment for the long term that are more difficult to do for the long term that are more difficult to do when under quarter-to-quarter pressures. Of course we get paid as executives and leaders of the company to manage that tradeoff in a public environment. But to be quite frank, we'll be able to invest in a way that might have been more problematic for [a public company focused on] short-term results.

When did talks begin with the acquiring companies, and how did this deal come about?

With respect to the process, things of that sort, I'm not at liberty to discuss. Those will be disclosed in the proxy later on in the summer. So specifically, I'm not able to discuss the process itself and how things progressed.

It was reported that Nortel was interested in acquiring Avaya. Was such as deal ever discussed?

On that, too - I can't comment on the rumors in the press over the last few weeks.

What sense do you get about the long-term plans Silver Lake and TPG have for Avaya?

What both Silver Lake and TPG have conveyed to us, they look into the technology industry for companies that have strong propositions with their customer base and their product lines. They've very committed to supporting our continued growth and providing long-term opportunities for the employees, as well as opportunities for new product lines for our customers. In discussions I've had with both Silver Lake and TPG, they are incredibly skilled in the area of large-scale investments in technology and growth industries. Clearly they are some of the very best in the world at this.

As we look forward as a company in the next few years, we think the strategic objectives that they have are very closely aligned with the strategic objectives that we as a management team have. As well, they've conveyed the same strategic objectives that Lou D'Ambrosio, our CEO, put in place a year ago with respect to three very important areas: strategy, moving and more into software; execution, being as nimble as quick as possible in execution; and lastly culture, which was reiterated by Silver Lake and TPG. They saw a culture here at Avaya that they felt was very compatible with the directions they want to take.

Do you foresee more private equity coming into the networking or communications software markets?

It's hard to predict that with any clarity. But there's also pretty obvious trend today in the private equity markets. There are, in many industries, more and more companies moving private. We'll just have to see how the private equity markets continue to perform. And I wouldn't be surprised to see more companies going private.

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Phil Hochmuth

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