Sprint Says Good-Bye to CEO Hesse's Steady Fortitude

Sprint, unable to merge with T-Mobile but still ready for a shake-up, has said goodbye to Dan Hesse and welcomed Marcelo Claure as CEO.

Sprint Dan Hesse

Among the rumors surrounding Sprint's anticipated merger with T-Mobile was news that the latter's boisterous ringleader and CEO, John Legere, would head the new combined company.

Last week, amid news that the merger plans had fallen apart, Sprint majority shareholder Softbank seemed to decide to stay true to its plan for a new CEO and announced that Marcelo Claure—the founder of device distributor Brightstar, of which Softbank purchased a majority share in January—would be replacing Dan Hesse.

"While we continue to believe industry consolidation will enhance competitiveness and benefit customers, our focus moving forward will be on making Sprint the most successful carrier," Sprint Chairman and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement, offering what passed for acknowledgement that his merger plans had been put to rest.

To the public, it may have seemed an abrupt goodbye to the man who, over his six-plus year tenure, hauled Sprint away from the edge of disaster and then saw it slip back in that direction.

"You have to remember where Sprint was when Hesse took the helm," Ken Hyers, director of Wireless Device Strategies at Strategy Analytics, told eWEEK. "Sprint was in substantial trouble. It was as though he was on a ship with multiple leaks, and the first few years he was just running around patching up leaks, just to keep things afloat. ... He had a really unenviable job at the time, just to keep that company alive."

Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research, agreed.

"I don't think it's too strong to say that he really saved Sprint," Dawson told eWEEK.

When Hesse was named CEO in 2007, it was with the hope that he could clean up the cultural and technological messes that had resulted from Sprint's acquisition of Nextel, which had a network that was incompatible with Sprint's. In addition to the realities of what turned out to be unrealistic ROI targets for the deal, its proposed "merger of equals" concept prevented the companies from ever working effectively as one.

(Dawson, cutting and pasting from a 2008 blog post he wrote after a meeting with the then-newly inaugurated Hesse, offers a nicely succinct rundown of the mess.)

In an Aug. 6 farewell letter, Hesse rattled through a list of his accomplishments, in an effort to congratulate the "teammates" who toiled alongside him—if not also to provide reminders to those unimpressed by his accomplishments.

"We've generated a whirlwind of action and innovation: Simply Everything, Ready Now, Any Mobile Anytime, ground-breaking environmental goals, Instinct, Reclaim, Pre, EVO 4G, iPhone (finally!), Satisfaction Guarantee, Boost Unlimited, acquiring Virgin Mobile and iPCS, successfully fighting AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile USA, shutting down iDEN, acquiring U.S. Cellular spectrum, the SoftBank merger, acquiring Clearwire, launching Spark, Framily, the M8 Harman Kardon edition with Spotify, the GS5 Sport with Under Armour, the Satisfaction Guarantee (reprise), and national HD Voice (to name just a few—whew!)," wrote Hesse.