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

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.

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"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

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...