Nokia’s Halbherr Said to Leave Amid Maps Strategy Discord

Aug 20, 2014 11:02 am ET

(Updates with Halbherr declined to comment in fourth paragraph.)

Aug. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Nokia Oyj’s digital-maps head Michael Halbherr is leaving the Finnish company after a disagreement about his division’s strategy with Chief Executive Officer Rajeev Suri, said people with knowledge of the matter.

There’s an internal debate over whether the unit should focus on automotive and enterprise clients or also continue to target consumers, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Nokia said today Halbherr, 49, will step down to pursue entrepreneurial interests.

The executive, who joined Nokia in 2006, spearheaded the company’s effort to challenge rivals such as Google Inc. in maps and broaden its revenue sources beyond wireless-network equipment. Nokia, based in Espoo, Finland, is reshaping itself and expanding into new fields after selling its mobile-phone unit to Microsoft Corp. for about $7.5 billion in April.

Halbherr, who is based in Berlin, declined to comment. Nokia said in a statement he is leaving Sept 1. Mark Durrant, a Nokia spokesman, declined to elaborate.

“Now the time is right for me to focus once again on entrepreneurial activities,” Halbherr said in the statement.

Cliff Fox, a senior vice president at the maps unit, called Here, will become acting chief.

Nokia built its location-technologies business by buying Chicago-based map provider Navteq Corp. for $8.1 billion in 2008 and 3-D map-technology maker Earthmine Inc. in 2012. Nokia provides map data to Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft, Yahoo! Inc. and about four out of five car-navigation systems.

The unit broke even last quarter, excluding some items, and had sales of 232 million euros ($308 million), accounting for about 8 percent of Nokia’s revenue. The division had about 6,000 employees at the end of June, representing 11 percent of Nokia’s workforce.

Nokia shares rose 4.5 percent to 6.22 euros at 6:01 p.m. in Helsinki. They have more than doubled in the past year.