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Nortel partners: A little spin control, please!

Nortel partners — once religiously loyal and convinced that the company would emerge from Chapter 11 a smaller, nimbler enterprise data and voice machine — are now throwing their hands up in the air.

This week, The Wall Street Journal reported rumors that Nortel is in talks with main competitors Avaya and Siemens to sell off the enterprise voice business. Nortel is also reportedly in talks with Nokia to sell off the wireless unit. That would leave Nortel with … well, nothing much. Its carrier business is strong, but is not beating Cisco.

Stuart Chandler, CEO of long-time Nortel partner Optivor Technologies, doesn’t believe those reports.

“That all sounds like speculation,” Chandler said. “But if that’s true then Nortel is just selling off pieces and won’t be Nortel anymore.”

Chandler, who was quoted on SearchITChannel as saying, “I will continue selling Nortel until you can pry Nortel from my cold, dead hand,” now says he is losing faith quickly.

“I really drank the Nortel Kool-Aid. But should I stay loyal to the Nortel brand when all this is going on? I am 50 years old and I am not drinking any more Kool-Aid from anybody,” Chandler said.

What upsets Chandler isn’t actually news that Nortel is rumored to be holding a fire-sale. He is more annoyed that Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski and other executives continue to let news slip that is either untrue or improbable.

Earlier this month, Zafirovski told The Financial Times that the company would emerge from Chapter 11 in the middle of this year, which seems to Chandler like an impossibility.

“Who goes into chapter 11 for six months? Very few companies. It’s usually 18 to 36 months,” he said.

Nortel also announced back in September that it would sell off its Metro Ethernet business and that there were interested parties. That conversation doesn’t seem to be on the table at all anymore.

“They’re having trouble with all these mixed messages in the market,” Chandler said, adding that a little spin control would go a long way for the channel until things are finally settled.

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