Nokia's CLO steps down to seek 'personal renewal'

Deputy CLO for corporate takes over on interim basis as telecoms giant seeks long-term replacement

Nokia’s chief legal officer, Nassib Abou-Khalil, has announced he is leaving the company, with Esa Niinimäki – deputy CLO for corporate and secretary to the board of directors – named as interim CLO while the company searches for a long-term replacement.

Abou-Khalil has been with Nokia since 2014 after joining from Yahoo, where he was head of public policy for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and general counsel for the Middle East and Africa. He assumed the CLO role at Nokia in 2019, having previously served as head of legal and compliance for the MEA region and compliance leader for the integration between Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent before becoming general counsel for global customer operations and then deputy CLO for business.

In May last year, Abou-Khalil unveiled one of the most comprehensive schemes to date by an in-house legal team targeted at promoting diversity among legal advisers.

As part of the initiative, Nokia is scoring its panel firms quarterly and annually in order to determine whether they have taken steps to implement effective E, I&D strategies. Firms taking part in the scheme include Eversheds Sutherland, Roschier, Bird & Bird, Quinn Emanuel, McKool Smith and Alston & Bird.

Abou-Khalil said: “This was a very difficult decision for me. However, after eight years with the company, it's time for personal renewal and seeking new challenges externally. Whatever I have been able to realise – both as Nokia’s CLO and in our industry-leading inclusion and diversity work – has been possible only because of the support and encouragement I have received from my colleagues at Nokia. Even though I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, I will miss working with this great team.”

Prior to his time at Nokia and Yahoo, Abou-Khalil was regional counsel for the Middle East, Africa and India at legacy company GE Oil and Gas, legal counsel for regulatory affairs at UAE telecoms company Etisalat and senior legal counsel at business administration services company TMF.

Pekka Lundmark, president and CEO of Nokia, said: “Nassib has been a valued member of Nokia’s leadership team. I thank him both for leading our legal and compliance work and for being a strong advocate of equality, diversity and inclusion within and beyond Nokia.”

Niinimäki, meantime, has been with Nokia for 15 years, joining as senior legal counsel for the Middle East and India before holding a number of other senior in-house roles including as general counsel for its global services business group. He became deputy CLO for corporate in 2018. Prior to his career at Nokia, Niinimäki was legal counsel at Finnish paper and packaging company M-real (now known as the Metsä Group) and an associate at White & Case.

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