SERGE TCHURUK COULD BE just the guy to take the reins at troubled French telecom giant Alcatel Alsthom. As chief executive of France's Total, he achieved an impressive turnaround in five years, doubling oil and gas revenues while streamlining from top to bottom. At Alcatel, whose board nominated him on May 30 to be CEO, he will assume control of a company whose profits have plunged 40% amid a string of legal scandals. Tchuruk is likely to speed restructuring, wean Alcatel from heavy dependence on cozy government contracts, and devise a new strategy for deregulating markets rapidly.

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