Samsung adds BlackBerry, Nokia and Disney execs to boost U.S. wireless presence

Samsung Electronics is perhaps best known in the U.S. market as a purveyor of smartphones and tablets, but the company is looking to bolster its network infrastructure and services position by hiring veterans from wireless and media companies.

Robin Bienfait, CIO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion samsung


Samsung Telecommunications America, Samsung's U.S. mobile arm, announced it hired executives from BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY), Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Disney to boost its position in the enterprise market, networking and content.

Robin Bienfait was named executive vice president and chief enterprise innovation officer of Samsung's global enterprise services unit. Bienfait was previously BlackBerry's CIO, where she led the company's enterprise business unit, end-to-end security, customer service engagement, global network services and corporate IT functions. She has more than 30 years of experience in mobility, security, business development, enterprise sales, wireless network operations and engineering.

The hire comes at a time when Samsung is trying to present itself to government agencies and enterprises as a viable alternative to BlackBerry devices and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones in secure workplace environments. As the Wall Street Journal notes, five of Samsung's Galaxy-branded smartphones and tablets were added to a list of approved devices by the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, meaning can be used by some U.S. government agency employees.

Samsung also named Mark Louison as senior vice president of wireless network systems. Louison previously held leadership roles at Nokia and Nokia's wireless networks unit, and most recently served as senior advisor at the Boston Consulting Group, where he provided executive council on client engagements in the technology, media and telecom practice. Samsung said he will manage existing customer relationships and develop new ones to increase market share within the U.S. wireless infrastructure market. Louison will pursue and develop new technologies, Samsung added.

Samsung's biggest U.S. network relationship is with Sprint (NYSE: S), and it serves as one of three network vendors for Sprint's Network Vision network modernization program. Network Vision has faced setbacks and delays but is expected to be largely completed within the next several weeks. Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) are the other main vendors. Along with Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent, Samsung is also helping to deploy new 8T8R 2.5 GHz radios as part of Sprint's tri-band LTE Spark service.

Finally, Samsung named John Pleasants as executive vice president of Samsung Media Solutions Center America, where he will lead Samsung's U.S. content and services strategy with a focus on strengthening and expanding the company's current portfolio of offerings. Pleasants was pushed out of Disney's money-losing interactive-media unit late last year, the Journal noted.

Meanwhile, Samsung is not the only company looking to poach talent from competitors. Chinese vendor ZTE is looking to grab executives and workers from BlackBerry and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Motorola Mobility unit, which Google is selling to Lenovo for $2.91 billion.

Inside ZTE's human-resources department, a special team is working to recruit talent from BlackBerry, according to the Journal, and while the team has so far recruited fewer than 20 people, it plans to hire more, an unnamed source told the Journal.

"We hope the talent from BlackBerry can enhance our product security and design capability," Adam Zeng, who became the head of ZTE's mobile-device business in January, told the Journal in an interview. He said ZTE will continue to actively recruit more talent from BlackBerry and other competitors.

For more:
- see this release
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this separate WSJ article (sub. req.)

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