Sprint shuffles front office in advance of Virgin relaunch

Sprint (NYSE: S) shuffled its front office as it prepares a major overhaul of its Virgin Mobile prepaid brand.

The carrier said Jim Hyde will take the helm of the Sprint Prepaid Group, and Dow Draper, who had served as president of the carrier's prepaid services business, was named CEO of Virgin Mobile. Hyde, whose resumé includes stints as CEO at nTelos Wireless, Lumos Networks and T-Mobile UK, will be tasked with developing and executing the carrier's strategy across Boost Mobile, Virgin and Sprint Prepaid.

Hyde also will manage Sprint's wholesale and MVNO businesses.

Draper, meanwhile, will "focus on the brand evolution" as Virgin prepares to relaunch with "new, groundbreaking, best-in-class services" in an effort to reach new prepaid customers, Sprint said. The carrier hasn't disclosed details about its new strategy with Virgin, but promises to divulge more information in the coming months.

"Dow is an inspirational leader with an extraordinary vision, which makes him the perfect fit for his new role as CEO of Virgin Mobile USA," Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said in a press release. "He and his team are charged with transforming the Virgin brand into a disruptive force in the wireless industry and align it more closely with the iconic global Virgin brand."

Sprint hopes to regain some traction in a prepaid market that has grown increasingly competitive over the last year. The nation's fourth-largest mobile network operator lost a net 264,000 prepaid users in the first quarter of 2016, down drastically from the 546,000 net additions it posted during the year-prior quarter. Meanwhile, T-Mobile's MetroPCS and AT&T's Cricket have made huge gains, while Verizon has opted not to cater to the segment out of fear of cannibalizing its postpaid business.

Prepaid users have become more valuable to carriers as the revenue gap between prepaid and postpaid continues to close. Increased competition appears to have driven down overall postpaid ARPU over the last three years, while prepaid ARPU has made modest gains. MoffettNathanson estimates indicate T-Mobile has seen its postpaid ARPU fall from $54.07 to $46.05 since the first quarter of 2013, for instance, while prepaid ARPU has risen from $35.96 to $37.58.  

Whether Sprint can claw back some of the prepaid users it's lost in recent months is uncertain, of course. But the operator is clearly sharpening its focus on a market that has become very important to every major U.S. carrier other than Verizon.

For more:
- see this Sprint press release

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