Samsung mobile exec Packingham departs company

Samsung Electronics confirmed that one of its top U.S. mobile executives, Kevin Packingham, has left the company.

Packingham, who served as chief product officer for Samsung Telecommunications America (STA), Samsung's U.S. mobile arm, left Samsung last week, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Kevin Packingham has departed Samsung Mobile," Samsung in a statement distributed to media outlets, including the New York Times, which was the first to report the news. "We thank Kevin for his contributions and wish him well in his future endeavors." The company did not say who would be taking his place.

In an interview with the Journal after his departure was announced, Packingham said he left voluntarily because the nature of his position had changed and had become less fun as Samsung moved from an exclusive product strategy to one where it released global products, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 or Galaxy Gear smart watch.

Packingham joined Samsung in September 2011 and he helped develop some of the products, such as the Galaxy S III smartphone, that helped push Samsung to become the world's largest smartphone maker by volume. He also drew on his experience in the wireless industry to help negotiate deals that got Samsung's flagship products broad support from all major U.S. carriers. Working on exclusive agreements with carriers was what he liked most, he said, but Samsung moved away from that with the S III and subsequent phones, instead selling one version of its phone through all carriers.

"The work I loved was spec'ing out these unique devices," he told the Journal on Thursday, in his first interview since leaving the company. "I worked myself out of the fun. The thing I loved was getting out every day and talking to carrier customers. As we went to global products there was less of that." Now, he said, most product development is done out of Samsung's headquarters in South Korea and he said he expects the U.S. division to continue its focus on marketing flagship products.

In an interview with the Times before his departure, Packingham explained that Samsung was able to score carrier support because it invested significant amounts of money to market is own products to drive consumer demand, instead of relying on carriers to do so, as many handset makers do. According to research firm Kantar Media, Samsung spent $401 million last year marketing its phones in the United States, while rival Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) spent $333 million during the same period.

"The change that happened was it took a lot of burden off the carriers," Packingham said in an interview with the Times in September. "People were coming into their (carrier) stores and they didn't have to pay for that demand."

Packingham told the Journal his situation changed when Samsung in July appointed Gregory Lee to become the new president of STA, replacing the division's previous head, Dale Sohn, who Packingham had known for years. Lee and Packingham did not have a prior relationship and while Packingham said he enjoyed his time a Samsung, he said he was reluctant to start over with a new leader and team.

Packingham said he does not have a new job lined up, and that he is hoping to relax for a while before jumping into a new opportunity. "I learned a ton from those guys," he said. "They are so intense. They don't do anything at a normal pace."

Before Samsung, Packingham worked at Sprint (NYSE:S) as the carrier's senior vice president of product and technology development, departing in 2010. After Sprint, Packingham served as the CEO of telecom consulting firm Amerilink Telecom, which unsuccessfully lobbied to improve Huawei's position in the network infrastructure market.

For more:
- see this NYT article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

Related Articles:
Samsung, Qualcomm announce competing smart watches: Galaxy Gear vs. Toq
Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE give chase to Apple and Samsung in Q2 smartphone race
Samsung Galaxy S III beats iPhone 5 in customer satisfaction study
Samsung posts surging Q2 profit thanks to smartphones, but mobile momentum slowing
Huawei taps new telecom firm led by former Sprint exec

Article updated Oct. 3, at 5:30 p.m. ET with additional information.

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