IBM’s longstanding counsel lured away by Nokia job

IBM Europe, Middle East and Asia vice-president and general counsel Carl Belding has quit the company after more than 20 years to become the chief legal officer at Nokia.

Belding was also the vice-president and assistant general counsel for the global sales and distribution arm of IBM. He was the first non-American to be appointed general counsel at the technology giant.

Belding carried enough clout within IBM to command use of the company’s private jet and is ranked by peers as among the top five general counsel in Europe.

The Nokia post is a new position, created to provide a focal point for Nokia’s 152 lawyers operating in 130 countries. Belding will report to new chief executive officer (CEO) Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo.

Kallasvuo’s appointment as CEO led to the resignation of former general counsel Ursula Ranin to avoid a conflict of interest, as it is understood the pair have a personal relationship.

Belding will start at Nokia on 1 January 2006. IBM has a history of promoting from within and industry insiders are expecting a similar succession this time around.

Nokia is known to farm out work to a wide range of firms and does not have a centralised legal panel. Lawyers in regional jurisdictions currently operate with autonomy.

Belding, a Swede, will be based at the Finnish telecom giant’s Helsinki headquarters, and it is understood that the Nordic connection played a significant role in the move. He had been based in Paris with IBM but was in the process of relocating to Geneva.

A Nokia spokesperson said: “Obviously we’re very happy to have him; after all, he is from a neighbouring country.”

Belding declined the opportunity to comment.