Sprint's Claure remakes leadership team with foreign talent in turnaround push

About a year ago, Sprint (NYSE: S) CEO Marcelo Claure started to shake up the company's leadership team. Now, that transition to a new set of lieutenants is truly hitting its stride, as the Bolivian-born billionaire has brought in talent from all over the world to try to help him turn around Sprint.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure


In November 2014, Claure told investors: "I'm assembling a team of people that have done this before, that are world-class leaders, that have decided to come and join us."

Sprint is still bringing in new blood. The company just announced that Jorge Gracia will join the team as senior vice president and general counsel effective January 2, 2016. Gracia will replace Charles Wunsch, who held the position since 2008 and will leave Sprint Jan.29, 2016, after ensuring a smooth transition to Gracia.

Since taking the helm in August 2014, Claure has largely replaced the executive team that existed under former CEO Dan Hesse. Claure hired Tarek Robbiati as CFO, replacing Joe Euteneuer and bringing with him experience as group managing director and deputy CFO of leading Australian telco Telstra and CEO of CSL Limited, the No. 1 mobile operator in Hong Kong.

Sprint also named former Bell Media executive Kevin Crull as its new CMO and Günther Ottendorfer as COO of Technology. Ottendorfer previously served as CTO and a board member for Telekom Austria and managing director of Optus Singtel in Sydney, Australia.

Additionally, Claure hired Roger Solé as senior vice president for the Hispanic market and senior vice president of innovation. Solé previously served as CMO of TIM Brasil and also led innovation for Vivo (Telefonica Brasil), the largest operator in Brazil.  

Claure plans to leave vacant Michael Schwartz's post as senior vice president for corporate strategy and development following his departure early this month, according to the Kansas City Star. The Sprint executive team is roughly half new and half Sprint veterans.

There are more changes coming, especially as Sprint works to cut up to $2 billion in operating expenses, which will entail thousands of job cuts. Additionally, last week Sprint announced that it is going to shake up its sales organization and move to a model in which it has four regions and sales teams focused on 19 key markets as opposed to focusing on different types of customers like postpaid and prepaid. The Northeast region will be headquartered in New York, the South in Atlanta, the Central region in Chicago and the west region in Los Angeles.

The carrier named Jaime Jones, who is currently president of the postpaid and general business organization for Sprint, as the head of the South region. Sprint has not yet named its other three regional presidents.

Claure's major hires came to the U.S. as strangers, the Star reports, and didn't know each other or the U.S. market. "They're trying to put together a dream team from outside the U.S. to take a fresh look at the U.S. market and how to compete and how to run Sprint differently," Berge Ayvazian, a principal consultant at Wireless 20/20, told the Star.

Claure is trying to bring in new talent with outsider and global perspectives to shake up a company that had been hemorrhaging postpaid subscribers and is only now starting to regain subscribe momentum after posting its first quarter of postpaid phone subscriber growth in two years.

Solé, a citizen of Spain, had to jump through hoops to get the proper visa to come to the U.S. and earned him a type O-1 visa, which is available to any "aliens of extraordinary ability." Robbiati and Ottendorfer also came here under O-1 visas, the Star reported.

Jones, a 20-year company veteran, said the new team's mission is to make Sprint the No. 1 carrier, which means understanding Sprint's past and challenges and where it needs to go from here. "Am I helping to be the bridge to that? I hope so," Jones told the Star, adding that the new executive team is more collaborative than any he has seen while working for 14 different bosses under four CEOs at Sprint.

Sprint now conducts daily sales meetings and twice-monthly "team-lead" sessions to bring all parties together for input on the issues of the day. "It's great to point to Tarek and a get a view from Telstra, or Günther to get a view of what is happening in Austria," Jones said.

For more:
- see this Kansas City Star article
- see this Sprint release

Related articles:
Sprint names heads of the South and Pacific Northwest in shift to regional structure
Sprint to move to 4 regional hubs model, streamline sales organization as part of restructuring
Sprint's Robbiati vows to keep improving on the network and churn even amid cost cuts
SoftBank's Son confirms Sprint to cut 'thousands' of jobs in new restructuring plan
Analysts divided over Sprint's future after Q3 results
Sprint adds postpaid phone customers for first time in 2 years in Q3