Sprint creates COO role, hires wireless veteran Cano

Nestor Cano, Sprint's new COO. Image: Sprint

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure once again brought a former business associate into the front office, hiring Néstor Cano to the newly created position of COO.

Cano will step into his new role next week and will be tasked with cutting costs, improving operations and “strengthening systems and processes” across the carrier’s businesses. Most recently, he served as president of European Operations at Tech Data, a global distributor of mobile devices.

“I’m so proud of the progress Sprint made in 2016, and now it’s time to accelerate our turnaround with operational excellence and superior execution,” Claure said in a press release. “Néstor is a proven transformation leader with an incredible work ethic. His experience running low-margin businesses with low operating expenses will help Sprint continue its transformation and improve execution at all levels of the organization.”

A Sprint filing with federal regulators indicated that Cano will see a starting salary of $1.3 million and an initial term of four years, as Bloomberg reported. Günther Ottendorfer will remain in his role of COO of technology.

Cano will come on board as Sprint continues to try to regain its financial footing as it wins back share of the postpaid smartphone market. The SoftBank-owned operator posted 347,000 postpaid net phone additions in the third quarter of 2016, up from 62,000 during the same period a year ago, and its net loss of $142 million was a marked improvement from the net loss of $585 million it posted last year.

But questions about its long-term prospects continue to linger. Both wireless service revenues and postpaid phone ARPU fell year over year, and Sprint tried to cut $2 billion in operating costs in fiscal 2016.

“Sprint has already undergone tremendous change and has seen great improvement under Marcelo’s leadership,” Cano said in the release. “I am excited to join Sprint at this critical time in the company’s turnaround. I am committed to driving focused execution of Sprint’s strategic plan to ensure Sprint remains a strong and relevant competitor in the wireless industry.”

Brightstar, a handset distributor founded by Claure before he took the helm at Sprint, owned a 50/50 joint venture with Tech Data in Europe. Rod Millar, who recently stepped down from his role as Sprint’s SVP of product and supply chain, joined Sprint in 2015 after more than seven years as an executive at Tech Data. And Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati was hired in 2015 after serving as CEO of FlexiGroup Ltd., which also had a partnership with Brightstar.