What makes him powerful: John Stanton, a long-time industry veteran, provided a steady hand to Clearwire at a time when the company has been in a great deal of flux. Stanton, who has been a Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) board member since 2008, replaced Clearwire founder Craig McCaw as chairman of the board in January. He also replaced Bill Morrow as CEO on an interim basis in March. In August, Clearwire promoted COO Erik Prusch to CEO, but Stanton still remains involved in the company.
Stanton's keen negotiating abilities were likely behind Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) decision to sign a new $1 billion wholesale deal with Clearwire that will last through the end of 2012. He also helped streamline Clearwire by dropping the "Rover" prepaid brand, which never really clicked.
During Stanton's reign as CEO, the company also decided to switch to a TDD LTE deployment (in addition to maintaining its mobile WiMAX network). However, the long-rumored move came with a big caveat--Clearwire needs an additional $600 million to cover its WiMAX footprint with LTE-Advanced and an additional $150 million to $300 million to maintain its WiMAX network. So far, the money hasn't materialized.
Although Erik Prusch is now in the CEO spot, Stanton was probably involved in inking a deal with Sprint that essentially will allow the companies to work together toward a joint LTE network. Additionally, the companies are reportedly working on a new contract that will extend their existing wholesale deal for another three to five years.
Stanton is a seasoned veteran; he served as chairman and CEO of VoiceStream Wireless, which was later sold to Deutsche Telecom and became T-Mobile USA. He knows what it takes to survive in the wireless industry, and his decision to push Clearwire to LTE was both vital and necessary. If he can help secure a long-term deal with Sprint, he'll have added to his legacy. --Phil