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Sprint’s Marcelo Claure says a high-caliber management team is coming together

“You’re going to be surprised, in the next 60 to 90 days, by the caliber of talent we are attracting to Sprint. 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 CEO Marcelo Claure said.
“You’re going to be surprised, in the next 60 to 90 days, by the caliber of talent we are attracting to Sprint. 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 CEO Marcelo Claure said. 2014 Jorge R. Perez

Sprint Corp., in the midst of shedding 3,700 employees, is close to adding new key executives to its payroll, chief executive Marcelo Claure told investors Wednesday.

Claure, on the job 93 days since replacing Dan Hesse, said Sprint was attracting and retaining “great people” in the process of completing the team of executives behind him.

“You’re going to be surprised, in the next 60 to 90 days,” he said, “by the caliber of talent we are attracting to Sprint. 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.”

One hiring announced last week was Junichi Miyakawa, who joined Sprint as head of its network and technology operations, from SoftBank Corp. SoftBank, based in Tokyo, owns 80 percent of Sprint.

Claure said Miyakawa has moved to the Kansas City area and his “return date is when our network is great. He wants to return to Japan.”

Claure spoke at an investor conference organized in New York by Wells Fargo Securities. It was his first public appearance since announcing 2,000 job cuts on top of 1,700 cutbacks last month.

The job cuts are part of an effort to slash $1.5 billion in total spending as Sprint aggressively pursues new customers with price-cutting deals. Claure said the company would compete aggressively for subscribers with a marketing push coming in the next two or three weeks.

The focus, he said, will be on making sure customers see Sprint as offering the best value in the wireless industry. He said that doesn’t mean the cheapest deals but that customers will understand that they will get their money’s worth.

“We’re going to advertise it heavily, and we’re going to give very clear examples,” he said.

Already, he said, customers are responding to Sprint’s latest offers of unlimited data plans for individuals and shared data plans for families. Sprint is winning 16 percent of all customers signing up for wireless service, compared with only 10 percent signing up in August when Sprint was offering its Framily plan.

“If you are able to put the right offer in front of consumers, consumers will react,” he said.

The promised campaign comes as the wireless industry gears up for the holiday shopping season, traditionally busy for the industry and boosted this year by the launch of a new Apple iPhone model.

Claure has said he spent his first day on the job flying to Apple’s headquarters to meet with CEO Tim Cook because Sprint’s relationship with the iPhone company was “pretty damaged.”

Under Claure, Sprint also has increased the credit requirements for customers to qualify for service plans that allow them to use service before paying for it. He told investors that the standards had fallen, allowing Sprint to claim more customers in this valuable category, but hurting it in the long run.

The session included no new information about Sprint’s plans to upgrade its network data speeds, which lag its rivals but which Sprint says will top the industry as it puts unused wireless spectrum assets to work.

Claure, however, said that he’s not as focused on network speed because customers aren’t counting gigabytes. They’re more concerned with reliable service and coverage.

He has gained this insight from customers, often by staying at work late to listen to customers’ calls in which they say why they are leaving Sprint.

Although these quick changes are improving Sprint’s position, including energizing its sales force and other employees, Claure said other changes were ahead.

“It’s just the beginning of a very long journey. We are far from turning the corner,” he said.

Claure was not asked during the session about a published report that Sprint Corp. is in talks with a California-based wireless startup company about a possible purchase.

USAToday said FreedomPop and Sprint may be discussing an investment by the No. 3 wireless carrier, an outright acquisition or no deal at all. The online report did not identify its sources.

FreedomPop, based in Los Angeles, uses Sprint’s wireless network to provide voice and data service, including WiMax and LTE, to customers under low-cost plans. Its offerings include a free service plan with limited voice minutes, text messages and data.

USAToday’s report said a buyout could cost $250 million to $450 million, with an investment likely to be $200 million. It said neither company would comment.

USAToday’s report said buying FreedomPop would help Sprint gain customers at lower costs. FreedomPop, it said, has been able to convert about half of its free customers to paying ones.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at mdkcstar.

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