WSJ: SoftBank's Son challenges Sprint's 'loser' mentality with disruptive, aggressive style

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is struggling to overhaul Sprint's (NYSE:S) corporate culture in an effort to make the nation's No. 3 wireless carrier more competitive against larger rivals AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and upstart challenger T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). According to a detailed profile of Son in the Wall Street Journal, the Japanese billionaire executive is holding repeated meetings with all levels of Sprint's management, both in-person and through video conferencing, and is working to instill a fast-paced, Silicon Valley-style attitude at what he sees as a staid, Kansas-based wireless operator.

According to the lengthy article, Son is working to bring 1,000 SoftBank employees from Japan to California to help remold Sprint into a relevant competitor in the U.S. wireless market. He has also challenged the carrier's advertising and marketing initiatives, and has urged Sprint management to come up with more compelling service pricing--the result of that effort is Sprint's new Framily plans, introduced in January.

Perhaps most notably, Son has introduced a more aggressive style of business to Sprint, often holding raucous meetings where attendees must yell to be heard. Son himself often takes an emotional, confrontational approach to business meetings and interaction, sometimes yelling at executives. That approach has clashed dramatically with Sprint's far more laid-back culture, according to the Journal article, which cited unnamed people close to Son and Sprint.

Indeed, it appears that Son's style is clashing with a number of higher-level Sprint executives: In recent weeks, Steve Elfman, president of network operations at Sprint; Bob Azzi, the carrier's senior vice president of networks; and Fared Adib, senior vice president for product development, have left the company. Though some expect Sprint CEO Dan Hesse to also depart at some point, the Journal said Son and Hesse have a relatively productive working relationship. "Masa and I are very different and we don't always agree," Hesse told the WSJ, using Son's nickname. "But we respect each other a great deal and we communicate that respect to one another regularly." Article (sub. req.)

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