Dan Hesse, CEO, Sprint Nextel
What makes him powerful: If judged solely on subscriber losses, Dan Hesse hasn't had much of a measurable impact. Although Sprint Nextel has seen major growth in its prepaid business, the company has continued to lose postpaid subscribers at an alarming clip. However, because of Sprint's market position--the No. 3 carrier isn't likely to catch up with Verizon Wireless or AT&T Mobility in subscribers any time soon--Hesse must be bold. Depending upon your point of view, his boldness is either a sign of someone who is in tune with innovative industry trends or someone who is making ill-advised gambles that could sink the company's hopes for a revival.
Nonetheless, it's clear Hesse is not content to quietly sit on the sidelines and that is why he is so important to this industry.
During the past year or so Sprint has embarked on a number of auspicious strategies. The company finalized a $5 billion network-outsourcing agreement with Ericsson, it cut 8,000 jobs during the deepest part of the recession, and its prepaid Boost Mobile unit helped drive the current unlimited craze with its introduction of unlimited calling at $50 per month.
And through it all, Hesse has remained adamant that Sprint is going to turn the corner. He, and Sprint, bet big on the success of the Palm Pre, and Palm's new platform, webOS, which won wide praise from analysts for its intuitive and innovative user interface.
Another bet Hesse has made is on the continued success of prepaid. With Sprint's $483 million acquisition of Virgin Mobile USA, the company effectively doubled-down on the prepaid market. Sprint also introduced a calling plan called "Any Mobile, Anytime," which offers unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling to any wireless number on any U.S. wireless carrier at any time.
Further, Hesse has been an enthusiastic supporter of the company's WiMAX efforts and its relationship as a wholesale partner of Clearwire. Indeed, Sprint's dealings with Clearwire essentially position the carrier at the forefront of the 4G revolution.
Of course, Hesse has to be an out-in-front booster for all of the company's efforts. There's too much at stake for him not to be. Sprint still has to turn around its postpaid business. It isn't clear if all of Hesse's gambles will pay off. But it's clear Sprint has a lot riding on them. --Phil