Sprint CEO Dan Hesse Looks to Fight a Potential 'Duopoly'

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-07-17 Print this article Print

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse makes it perfectly clear where he stands on the prospect of AT&T buying T-Mobile-and why he says it would be "disastrous" to the telecom industry.

Dan Hesse is one of the few instantly recognizable CEOs in the world. And it isn't because Sprint, the company he heads, is one of the largest, most recognizable companies in the world because, frankly, it isn't. Yet on the "I know who that guy is" scale, Hesse ranks up there with Apple's Steve Jobs, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Donald Trump and a small circle of other CEOs.

There's a couple of reasons for that: a calm, reassuring personality and the widespread commercial television and Web exposure that takes him to the world at large.

Ironically, Hesse initially wanted no part of a television commercial campaign.

"The reason I do them- and I just finished doing my 10th one-is that they get rated really, really highly," Hesse (pictured) said. "When our advertising agency asked me if I would do a television commercial, I said I didn't want to do it. I asked them if CEO-type ads work, and they said: -Only about one in seven, but when they do work, they work extremely well.' "The reason ours work really isn't likeability. The audience knows when they're seeing a real person, and they pay attention-they remember. So we do them, and they seem to work. And I've saved a lot of money for the company by not having to hire an actor."

Hesse has done a lot more than that for the company, analyst Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics, told eWEEK. He noted that when Hesse took over at Sprint in 2007, "People were wondering when Sprint was going to die. "He not only turned the company around, but it's growing, and his workforce loves him. He's got internal approval ratings that would make most guys blush-it's 90-plus percent."

Entner believes that the Sprint television commercials featuring Hesse "have helped to a fair extent in improving the company's image because people associate Dan with the company. [They] remember him, and they remember what Sprint stands for."

Hesse Talks; People Listen

Besides saving all that cash, Hesse has become one of the leading spokesmen for the telecom industry. When he speaks, people listen. Hesse, who earlier this year was elected the new chairman of the international CTIA (Cellular Telephone Industry Association), made a presentation June 16 at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business as part of a weeklong CTO Forum conference. Addressing a select group of CTOs and CIOs from large corporations, Hesse assessed and commented on the current state of the U.S. and global telecom business. He also made sure that everyone knew where he stood on the proposed acquisition of a key competitor, T-Mobile, by another competitor, AT&T.

Hesse couldn't be clearer about his opinion of two of his most aggressive competitors possibly joining forces in the global telecom marketplace. Naturally, he's against it, although in 2004, he was in favor of the last big telecom merger- Sprint Nextel-even though he wasn't Sprint's CEO at the time.

"For the very first time in my career of 34 years, I'm opposing an acquisition or takeover," Hesse stated. He called AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile "just a bridge too far." Hesse claimed it would be "disastrous for consumers and the U.S. economy." He added that the merger would lead to less competition, which would result in "a lot more regulation than we have now."

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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