Ex-Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo gets used to low-stress life
Judging from the sounds that it is making, the black phone on the table of the kitchen of Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo is constantly receiving e-mails.
The phone is not yet available in shops. Kallasvuo has a rare prototype of the Nokia E7, which will be introduced to the retail market sometime next year.
“They let me keep the phone when I left.”
Kallasvuo, 57, worked at Nokia for nearly 30 years. He advanced from being a company lawyer to the Nokia CEO, but on September 10, he was sacked from the top management post. That is when his hectic lifestyle came to an end.
The man is now sitting relaxed on a sofa in his home, even though it is a weekday. The only item on his calendar for today is a Christmas lunch with his businessman friends.
“Because of my work I had to turn down the invitation every Christmas for 15 years.”
His termination has brought Kallasvuo back to living an ordinary life. Now he shops, plays tennis, and reads biographies.
He becomes excited when he says that for the first time in five years he has managed to go to the trot races at the Vermo track.
“The gambling does not interest me. In trot racing I am only interested in the horses”, he says, adding that he has committed the pedigrees of many horses to memory.
However, a lack of stress still takes some getting used to. As President and CEO of Nokia, his day at the company’s head offices usually started at 8:30 and ended 12 hours later, after which Kallasvuo went home and worked some more.
Kallasvuo spent 140 days a year on business trips, and he had not had a real holiday in years.
“I usually had a few days off at Christmas and in the second week of August.”
Kallasvuo admits that only recently has he had time to think how strenuous his life has been.
“I have focussed on my work, and I do not regret it. I have never been one to equivocate”, he says.
However, something has happened to Kallasvuo during the autumn.
His years at Nokia made Kallasvuo a rich man. For instance, in 2000, his earned income was EUR 13.6 million.
Kallasvuo has lived with his current wife Ursula Ranin in a two-level apartment in the south of Helsinki for eight years.
Neither name is to be found on the intercom downstairs.
The flat is stylishly understated. There is much art on the walls. The objects are antiques, and there are books on art history on the tables.
There is a library upstairs, collectors’ items from around the world, and two drinks cabinets.
“There are only good wines in there”, Kallasvuo says modestly.
Kallasvuo became a millionaire already in the 1990s, when Nokia’s share price shot up, and the stock option programme of the company’s management produced vast earnings.
“For me, getting rich was a strange - even a surrealistic feeling that lasted for years. I was a fairly ordinary man with a home loan all the way through the mid-1990s.”
As CEO of Nokia, Kallasvuo became an international celebrity, whose picture once was on the cover of Fortune magazine. Not all of the attention was positive. In Finland many recall the massive fine that he had to pay for tax evasion: he failed to declare EUR 11,000 in goods that he brought from Switzerland. Others blame Kallasvuo for Nokia’s current difficulties.
“Being in the public eye gave me an unreal feeling. It was one of the most unpleasant sides of working as a CEO, but it had to be accepted.”
People would point at him on the streets, talk to him, and ask for autographs. Kallasvuo admits that publicity made him careful.
“I don’t walk on the streets late at night. It is always possible that someone might be nursing a grudge.”
After his dismissal Kallasvuo has avoided the public eye. Now he seems relaxed, and even satisfied.
He listens attentively to questions, and answers in a considered manner. He cannot comment on Nokia in any way, having been silenced by a confidentiality agreement.
“At Nokia I most miss the people”, Kallasvuo says. We worked together, and there were always gifted people around me. Many of them eventually became friends.
CEOs who are sacked usually lament that they did not complete what they had set out to do. Many show their disappointment openly. Some are angry.
Kallasvuo has never criticised Nokia. As he sees it, if a CEO does not achieve the goals that were set for him, the company’s board of directors must at least consider termination in the interests of the shareholders.
“I have loved my work, but it could be that something in me has changed. The wistfulness that came after my dismissal has been replaced by relief. Endless travel and long days at work no longer seem attractive.”
He has received dozens of offers to serve on the boards of various companies and in various projects, but none have interested him yet.
“I don’t think that I will be a CEO of any company. It would require too much of a commitment.”
During the autumn Kallasvuo has started to appreciate free time and a more peaceful lifestyle. He has pondered his emotions and his values, one of which is a strict work ethic that he learned at home.
I would like to teach business management to young people, and to share the experiences that I learned at Nokia.” there have already been discussions with one educational institution.
In spite of everything, Nokia and Kallasvuo still have much to do with each other. He is still chairman of the board of the mobile network company Nokia Siemens Networks.
He has had business travel to the United States, and in the previous week, he got back from China.
“My trip back from China took 28 hours. At Bangkok airport I thought that this is not how it was supposed to go.”
And then there’s the phone.
Many corporate executives in Finland have started to use the Apple iPhone.
Kallasvuo is loyal to Nokia. “I don’t think I’ll ever buy an iPhone.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Nokia 2004-2010: Plenty of knowledge, not enough courage (19.10.2010)
Nokia begins shipments of N8 smartphone (30.9.2010)
Embattled Kallasvuo steps down - Nokia appoints Stephen Elop as new President and Chief Executive Officer (10.9.2010)
Analysts: Nokia has wasted 3 years trying to come up with challenger to iPhone (30.4.2010)