CEO of the Year 2010: Mitel's Don Smith

OBJ Staff
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The executive who has spearheaded Mitel's decade-long transformation into an Internet protocol-based communications company is the Ottawa Business Journal CEO of the Year for 2010.


Don Smith, appointed CEO of Mitel in April 2001, has overseen the overhaul of the company’s products, acquired a major U.S. competitor for $730 million and, this year, delivered the largest initial public offering in the city’s history.

Early in September, Mitel announced its first quarter financial results – which included $160 million in revenue and non-GAAP net income of $10.8 million – as well as Mr. Smith’s plan to retire.

“Don’s success at re-engineering Mitel and preparing it for the future is very clear,” says OBJ publisher Michael Curran. “And beyond that, he has demonstrated strong leadership on a local front.”

Mr. Smith is the eleventh recipient of the CEO of the Year Award, following in the footsteps of many of the city's top chief executives including Rod Bryden, George Cwynar, Ron Zambonini, Richard L'Abbe, Roger Greenberg, Peter Strom, Kevin Dee, David Dobson, Roy Mlakar and Karen Kinsley.

"Mitel's rich history of success is due to the innovation, experience and drive of our employees, both here in Ottawa and around the globe," says Mr. Smith. "I am honoured to accept this award as a symbol of the commitment and dedication of the entire Mitel team."

Mr. Smith was selected by a committee chaired by Mr. Curran, OCRI president Claude Haw, Telfer School of Management acting dean Francois Julien and past recipients.

The award is based on five criteria: corporate performance, leadership and vision, competitiveness and innovation, community involvement and timeliness.

“Don spent several years charting the course for Mitel in the 1980s only to return to the company as the CEO in 2001. He is a proven leader not only in the technology community, but in the community at large,” says Mr. Haw.

“He successfully steered Mitel back into the mainstream and completed the most significant IPO on NASDAQ in Ottawa’s history. While a soft spoken, mild-mannered gentleman, he is a giant when it comes to building a global company with market leadership.”

Mr. Smith will be feted at an awards luncheon on Nov. 2 at the Westin Hotel, and profiled in the Nov. 1 issue of OBJ.

The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

For more information on the awards luncheon, click here.


Organizations: Mitel, Telfer School of Management, Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Geographic location: U.S., Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Steve
    June 17, 2011 - 20:04

    I have also recently left Mitel. The upper management is very poor. This company has now seen three CEO's in the past three years. Rich Mcbee is the new leader and by far the worst for the company. They are eliminating the local representation and branches. I truely feel sorry for the people that management is telling are safe. Fact is management does not know and never will go out and meet the employees that have built the company. I came from the Inter-tel side and Steve Mihaylo new my name and I had the pleasure of meeting him several times.

  • Fred
    September 16, 2010 - 16:36

    Unfortunately, I must agree with the previous comments. I left Mitel after living through years of "leadership" -- quarterly layoffs and excuses as to why they were required. Strangely, the senior ranks grew while the rest of us took pay-cuts ... In the end I left, close to two years ago, just before one more "restructuring" which will occur once more :-(

  • Insider Voice
    Insider Voice
    September 16, 2010 - 10:04

    Like the abv comments indicate, Don Smith has done very little for Mitel. How many profitable years in the last 10 have been posted? Employee moral is well below any measure. Work for free programs, benefit and pay roll backs, not to mention the outsourcing. How can a takeover of a .7 Billion dollar company by a .4 billion dollar company result in such poor results. Non audited and non GAAP financial... This can only be a serious issue? The original IPO stock was supposed to be $21, gone public at $14 and is now$6.5... how can that be considered a success. Can't help but notice all the Cxx level people got great bonuses and golden parachutes just before IPO while employees march on with pay cuts. This company has been void of real leadership for many years that is clear. One can only hope things will change or sadly, Mitel go the way of Nortel. Another Ottawa company making sure Cxx level people are flush with cash while dedicated employees are left looking for work with no pensions. Well Done Mr. Smith & Mr. Matthews.

  • another voice
    September 15, 2010 - 16:51

    The CEO of the year choice headed a company that was bought by Mr. Matthews for some $350M. Subsequently there were hundreds of millions of additional investment. Then an acquisition of $780M. Then an IPO that gathered half of the amount expected. Then the shares have tanked to half of the IPO price. Almost every shareholder and investor including employee shareholders have lost most of their money. Not sure why you have not covered that story of abysmal performance and now think Mr. Smith is CEO of the year. The company market capitalization is about the same as what it was when it was bought in 2001 and has lost hundreds of millions in the interim. Perhaps OBJ is addicted to only telling the good news or is afraid to ruffle feathers. There are many good elements to Mitel and other Matthews companies but please tell the whole story.

  • dave
    September 15, 2010 - 15:35

    no raises to employees during his tenure two rounds of 10-15% income rollbacks 15:1 reverse stock split rollback of employer rrsp contributions... I know times were tough but many of the company gains were on the backs of loyal Mitel employees