& cplSiteName &

A Short History of Hesse

Sarah Thomas
8/6/2014
50%
50%

When I started my career as an intern at Telephony magazine just over eight years ago, I was thrilled at the prospect of gaining (through a family friend) an exclusive interview with Sprint CEO Gary Forsee, and making a name for myself.

But a few months later, Forsee resigned (or was pushed), crushing my interview ambition. But there was soon a new interview target (though without the quasi-nepotistic connections) as Dan Hesse took over as top dog at my hometown carrier.

From his first black-and-white commercial and his emphasis on network harmonization and customer service, Hesse promised to turn the struggling carrier around.

And, in many respects, he succeeded. The company he is handing over to new CEO Marcelo Claure is much different than the mess of networks and brand confusion he inherited, even if many challenges still remain. (See Sprint Appoints Claure As New CEO and Hesse Out, Claure In: Sprint Is Son's House Now!.)

It was often messy, but during his tenure, Hesse shut down Sprint's old Nextel network, pivoted the company from WiMax to LTE, and -- his biggest accomplishment -- negotiated Sprint's acquisition by SoftBank Corp. , netting it the cash and leadership it needed to continue its Network Vision (although ultimately getting himself ousted in the process). (See Softbank Closes on Sprint Acquisition.)

"Dan Hesse walked into a very, very difficult situation," says Interactive Broadband Consulting Group LLC (IBB) Senior Partner Jefferson Wang. "From a network perspective, it was Nextel at low-band, Sprint at mid-band, WiMax at high-band. There were two different headquarters -- Reston, Virginia, and Overland Park, Kansas. It was a company with dual identities. He had to unify and harmonize all that, which took a lot of strong, decisive decision making. That is what he was great at."


For more on the key developments in the US mobile sector, check out the stories at Light Reading's dedicated mobile channel.


As we bid Hesse adieu and wish him and his reported $40 million severance package well, we take a look back at some of our favorite moments with the outgoing Sprint CEO, who we'll always remember in all his black-and-white glory.

Click on the picture below for more:

The Face of Sprint
Sprint eventually pulled its black-and-white commercials featuring Hesse, meant to give a face to the brand, but Hesse's celebrity status was already secured.
Sprint eventually pulled its black-and-white commercials featuring Hesse, meant to give a face to the brand, but Hesse's celebrity status was already secured.

In addition to being a strong leader, Hesse was just a downright likeable guy. Glassdoor named him one of 2014's highest-rated CEOs by employees, even though he was also the highest paid in the wireless industry last year, raking in $49.1 million, including $27.8 million in stock. (See Sprint CEO Hesse to Stay On Through 2018.)

Before T-Mobile US Inc. CEO John Legere came around, Hesse's laidback keynotes had the most quips and quotable one-liners. I think Light Reading's own Dan O'Shea summed it up best, when he commented almost a year ago: "Hesse has been in the sector forever, and has proven himself very level-headed over the years, even when hawking fringe-appeal ideas like free space optics. He is the sort of guy who, if he was my neighbor and I was going out of town for a long period of time, I would totally trust him to water my plants, bring in the mail and make sure a few lights were left on every night to make it look like someone was actually there."

But, nice guys finish last, as they say, and Sprint is in need of a shakeup, especially as a merger with T-Mobile US is off the table. There has long been talk of the board distancing itself from Hesse under Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son's leadership, so his departure isn't all that surprising, even with a five-year contract in place. (See SoftBank's Son Keeps Sprint on Short Leash.)

In a memo to employees, Hesse acknowledged the rocky road Sprint has taken during the past seven years, and reiterated his confidence in the company he is leaving, and in its new leadership.

"With the most difficult part of the Network Vision build behind us, Sprint is about ready to begin growing again," Hesse wrote. "A 'controlled entity' like Sprint can be most effective when the majority owner and the CEO are fully aligned and are great partners. Marcelo and Masa enjoy an exceptional relationship, which has grown out of mutual respect between two very successful entrepreneurs. This is the right time in Sprint's evolution for Marcelo to take the reins and get the most benefit from our relationship with SoftBank."

IBB's Wang wasn't surprised to hear of Hesse's departure either, as nearly seven years is a long time for any CEO to serve. He praises Hesse for teeing up Son and Claure to make the changes needed to make Sprint a real competitor in the US again. Hesse harmonized the networks, gave Sprint a brand identity, and improved its customer image. Now it's up to Claure and Son to execute, but Wang thinks they're up for the challenge.

"If Son is behind it, it will get very aggressive," Wang says. "That's the only way he plays. He plays scale, aggressive price changing, and bringing the industry down to a certain threshold that's difficult if you donít followÖ If he has the control in the US market, he'll bring all his assets here and disrupt the disruptor."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(10)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
KBode
50%
50%
KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/7/2014 | 2:52:04 PM
Re: Hesse: A Man of Many Strategies
It seems like between WiMax/Clearwire and Nextel they were always heading a million directions at once, and not doing anything very well. The truly well-performing network has been "around the corner" for what feels like most of a decade now. It almost feels like Hesse was just starting to figure out the correct path forward when the SoftBank deal arrived.
cnwedit
50%
50%
cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/6/2014 | 4:22:53 PM
Re: Hesse: A Man of Many Strategies
Dan,I agree. That's kinda what I meant about having lots of different strategies but not one laser-focused approach to the market. 
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
8/6/2014 | 4:20:56 PM
Re: Hesse: A Man of Many Strategies
Well you'll note that Legere has either Neville Ray -- the real power behind the throne --  or  Carter Braxton do his presentations with him as well. He's pretty quick to acknowledge the CTO and CFO in public.

Personally, I understand that some people find Legere an abrasive potty mouth (doesn't worry me but then years of having editors for bosses will do that to you) but the whole "uncarrier" strategy HAS actually changed some aspects of the way that AT&T and Verizon do their businesses.

I'm not sure I could point to a single time that happened under Hesse's leadership. Maybe AT&T marketing HSPA+ as 4G but that was more a reaction to Verizon.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/6/2014 | 4:12:01 PM
Suit with tennis shoes?
Suit with tennis shoes? It works for Doctor Who.

cnwedit
50%
50%
cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/6/2014 | 4:02:39 PM
Re: Hesse: A Man of Many Strategies
Dan, I would agree people put too much emphasis on CEOs, but both Hesse and Legere are inviting that scrutiny by making themselves the face of their companies albeit in very different ways.

The independent contractor strategy could actually work to enable faster deployment if managed correctly. But that may not have been the case with Sprint. 
DanJones
100%
0%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
8/6/2014 | 4:00:10 PM
Re: Hesse: A Man of Many Strategies
People place too much emphasis on the CEOs sometimes.

 

I have been told in the past that the real reason that T-Mobile has been so much faster in deploying LTE than Sprint, which is the rock that their current expansion is based on, is because Sprint relied much more heavily on independent contractors than T-Mobile did. 

That's just an anecdote I've heard, nonetheless, food for thought...
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 3:56:23 PM
How has Sprint really improved?
It's still nipping at the heels of AT&T and Verizon... its coverage is 3rd place... I suppose it hasn't fallen further behind, but has it really gained that much ground? 
cnwedit
50%
50%
cnwedit,
User Rank: Light Beer
8/6/2014 | 3:23:15 PM
Hesse: A Man of Many Strategies
I would agree with Jeff Wang that Hesse did a tremendous job of pulling Sprint together into a single entity, even if that behind-the-scenes work goes on today. And I would agree with Dan O'Shea that he came across as a good and decent guy, who genuinely cared about the company and its employees. I think that shows in his final quote as CEO. 

Sometimes it felt to me like there were almost too many strategies in play and that they kept shifting a bit. That may be unfair to say but it's my impression. Sprint may have come together as one company under Hesse, but he didn't fully succeed in giving it one identity to the public, as Legere - while hardly as likeable -- as done with T-Mobile. 
More Blogs from Que Sera Sarah
In time for Internet of Things World, IoT World News profiles four women who are driving the technology behind IoT.
Women in Comms and its 40 member companies are gearing up for an even bigger and better 2017, and we want YOU to join us on the path to gender equality in comms.
Sprint's VP of Enterprise Sales Nelly Pitocco joins WiC on Wednesday, November 2, at 1PM ET to share how Sprint is tackling the three biggest pipeline pain points affecting women in comms.
Women often struggle to advance past middle management or end up leaving the workplace at that time, so WiC's 11th panel discussion in London next week will tackle how to get unstuck and keep moving up the corporate ladder.
Intel's Lynn Comp joins WiC on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 1PM EST to talk company culture -- what it is, how to craft a positive one and how to communicate it internally and externally.
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
Verizon: Beware Unknown Unknowns

12|7|16   |   04:58   |   (0) comments


Chris Novak, director of the Verizon Enterprise Solutions Risk Team, explains that enterprises who don't conduct a thorough audit of their assets often leave some things unprotected because they don't know they exist. Many times these unprotected assets are part of corporate M&A activity but left unshielded they can become a hacker's playground, he tells Light ...
LRTV Interviews
ETSI's CTO Talks NFV, 5G & NGP

12|5|16   |   09:45   |   (0) comments


Adrian Scrase, CTO at standards body ETSI, talks about the various initiatives and specifications developments related to NFV, 5G and NGP (next-generation protocols) that will underpin next-gen networks.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Korn Ferry Consultant: How to Find, Cultivate & Be the Best Talent

11|30|16   |   4:10   |   (2) comments


Erin Callaghan, a managing consultant for Korn Ferry Futurestep, shares strategies for companies to improve how they recruit and for women to ensure they don't get lost in the pipeline.
LRTV Custom TV
We Can Make the World More Sustainable

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


GeSI is a global e-Sustainability Initiative organization bringing together 40 big multinational companies around the world. According to GeSI's report, information and communication technology can make the world more sustainable. Luis Neves, chairman of GeSI, shared with us his opinion at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Finding a New Way to Engage Customers & Drive Revenue

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Mobile revenues are declining. Digicel, a player in the Caribbean telecommunications/entertainment space, has found a new way to engage customers and drive revenue. John Quinn, CTO of Digicel, shared with us its story at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016)
LRTV Custom TV
Do You Really Need Gigabit Infrastructure?

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Altibox is the biggest fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) player and the largest provider of video and TV in Norway. They started out with zero customers in 2002. Now they have close to half a million households and companies attached to their FTTH business. Nils Arne, CEO of Altibox shared with us their story and insight on 5G at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
BTís Openreach Strategy & Its Updates in 2016

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


A lot of developments at Openreach this year in terms of strategy and planned investments. Peter Bell, CIO of Openreach BT, shared with us the updates of Openreach at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
ITU: The Broadband Is Our Future

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


At Ultra-broadband Forum, Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of ITU, discussed how important it is for countries, companies and everybody to be working together to help to build the broadband and digital economies (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Tackling 5G in Dallas

11|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Here are our highlights of the 5G North America show in Dallas, Texas with Light Reading's Dan Jones.
LRTV Interviews
Cox Prepping for Virtualization Trials

11|14|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this video interview, Cox's Jeff Finkelstein discusses MSO's plans to test managed business services in early 2017 and tackle Distributed Access Architectures.
LRTV Custom TV
Drivers & Potential of NGP

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


ETSI has created an Industry Specification Group to work on Next Generation Protocols (NGP ISG), looking at evolving communications and networking protocols to provide the scale, security, mobility and ease of deployment required for the connected society of the 21st century. The NGP ISG will identify the requirements for next generation protocols and network ...
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei IP 2020 for Future Networks

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Future Networks should satisfy many requirements such as high throughput, extremely low latency, flexible mobility, intrinsic security, networking automation, and so forth. The Chief Architect of Huawei Future Networks addresses a holistic solution, i.e., IP 2020, to achieve these requirements for various future life scenarios (e.g., autonomous driving, tactile ...
Upcoming Live Events
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Cable Nodes Becoming a Choke Point
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 12/5/2016
WiCipedia: After-School Coding, Salary Probing & Pro-Parenthood Companies
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 12/2/2016
Altice Plans FTTH for Entire US Footprint
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/30/2016
Altice FTTH Bill Could Hit Almost $9.6B in US
Iain Morris, News Editor, 12/1/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Even when there's a strong pipeline of female talent in the comms industry, it tends to leak all the way to the top. McKinsey & Company says women experience pipeline leakage at three primary points: being unable to enter, being stuck in the middle or being locked out of the top. Each pipeline pain point presents its own challenges, but also opportunities to stop the leak. Wireless operator Sprint is making a conscious effort to improve its own pipeline from new recruits to the C-suite, and it wants the rest of the industry to do the same. In this Women in Comms radio show, WiC Board Member and Sprint Vice President of Enterprise Sales Nelly Pitocco will give us her take on the industry's pipeline challenges. Pitocco, who joined Sprint in May and has spent 20 years in the comms industry, will also offer solutions, share how Sprint is tackling the challenge within its own organization and take your questions live on air.