& 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 don’t follow… 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.
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
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.

Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
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? 
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
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
New companies with a focus on video graphics, smart grid predictive analytics and a quadcopter camera make up WiC's finalists for Female-Led Startup to Watch.
This week in our WiC roundup: Cell C's CEO under fire for radio show comments; Clinton plays the woman card; Intel discusses diversity backlash; and more.
WiC is proud to have Cisco, Hitachi Consulting, Infinera, Netcracker, Redknee, NetNumber and Open Networking Foundation joining our cause.
This week in our WiC roundup: a father-daughter war of words; a new face for the $20; a look at venture capital firms; and more.
2016 finalists for WiC's inaugural Leading Lights -- Most Inspiring Woman in Comms, Female Tech Pioneer of the Year and Female-Led Startup to Watch -- are revealed.
From The Founder
Download our complete guide to de-risking NFV deployment in 2016, including:
  • An eight-step strategy to deploying NFV safely, based on input from the companies that have already started virtualizing their production networks.
  • Interviews with leading executives at Colt, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Cisco, Nokia, ZTE, Ericsson and Heavy Reading.
  • Flash Poll
    Live Streaming Video
    Prepping for the Future: Upskill U Explained
    During this short kick-off video, Doug Webster, Vice President of Service Provider Marketing, Cisco, and Light Reading’s CEO & Founder Steve Saunders give an overview of Upskill U.
    Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
    Atrinet's NetACE – Migration to NFV & SDN With NetOps-Driven LSO

    5|4|16   |     |   (0) comments


    At Atrinet's headquarters, Ray Le Maistre sits down with Roy Silon to get an in-depth look into the company's focus and the secret recipe for their success.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    Amsterdam ArenA, Powered by Huawei

    5|4|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Huawei's ICT solutions power the state-of-the-art Amsterdam ArenA, turning it into a smart stadium.
    LRTV Interviews
    Testing When There's No 'There' There

    5|4|16   |     |   (0) comments


    The benefits of SDN/NFV are well known, but the transition comes with some challenges, prominent among them is: how do you test a network that has been abstracted and has the potential to be endlessly reconfigurable? Light Reading was at NFV World Congress in Santa Clara, Calif., where we bumped into Mats Nordlund, CEO and co-founder of Netrounds, a Swedish ...
    LRTV Interviews
    Ditching the Slash & the Orchestration Wars

    5|3|16   |     |   (2) comments


    SDN and NFV have been inextricably bound with each other for so long that on a conceptual level, smooshing them together into one catch-all phrase – SDNFV – is now justifiable, according to Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF). Light Reading spoke to Pitt at the NFV World Congress, where he explained that the next ...
    LRTV Custom TV
    ZTE TV Connect Highlights

    5|3|16   |     |   (0) comments


    ZTE gives us a tour of its booth and new products at TV Connect in London.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Deluxe's Unified Delivery Solution

    5|3|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and visit the Deluxe booth at NAB! Here you'll find Deluxe's Unified Delivery Solution, OTT video, virtual reality, HDR, 4K and much more!
    LRTV Interviews
    Verizon Puts Gray Boxes in the Shade

    5|2|16   |   04:33   |   (1) comment


    When it comes to the white box trend, "gray" boxes, which have a slight proprietary twist, don't give service providers and end users the advantages they're seeking, according to Verizon's Vice President of Product and New Business Innovation Shawn Hakl.
    LRTV Custom TV
    Dealing With a Disrupted Video Market

    5|2|16   |     |   (0) comments


    Ericsson's Simon Frost discusses how traditional pay-TV providers can cope with the big changes wrought by the rise of OTT video and IP technology.
    LRTV Custom TV
    The VNF Responsibility of Red Hat

    5|2|16   |     |   (0) comments


    At MWC, Caroline Chappell of Heavy Reading visits the Red Hat booth and sits down with Chris Wright to talk about the responsibility the VNF needs to take on in order to ensure the operators get the carrier-grade performance they expect for their network.
    LRTV Interviews
    AT&T Expert on the Key Pillars of UC

    4|29|16   |   03:58   |   (0) comments


    Vishy Gopalakrishnan, AVP of product marketing at AT&T, talks about the three developments that are making unified communications and collaboration secure and reliable for enterprise users.
    LRTV Documentaries
    LRTV Report: Mobile Core Innovation

    4|28|16   |   25:32   |   (0) comments


    Hear from multiple industry experts from Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom, Heavy Reading, Huawei, Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, NEC and many more about developments in the mobile core as operators virtualize their IMS and evolved packet core systems and prepare for a 5G world.
    LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
    NFV World Congress Highlight

    4|26|16   |     |   (0) comments


    The highlight of the NFV World Congress contains exciting telecom news. Join us for an inside look at Huawei's ICT 2020 plan and its latest collaboration with industry leaders.
    Upcoming Live Events
    May 23, 2016, Austin, TX
    May 23, 2016, Austin Convention Center
    May 24-25, 2016, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
    December 6-8, 2016,
    June 16-18, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
    All Upcoming Live Events
    Infographics
    A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
    Hot Topics
    Ultra-Broadband Summit, Hong Kong
    Iain Morris, News Editor, 4/27/2016
    Amazon AWS Reports $2.6B Quarterly Revenue, Up a Colossal 64%
    Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 4/28/2016
    WiCipedia: Woman Cards & Bitch Switches
    Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 4/29/2016
    Sprint CEO: Our Spectrum Is for 5G
    Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/3/2016
    Amazon & Other 'Big 4' Cloud Providers Crushing Competitors
    Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 4/29/2016
    Like Us on Facebook
    Twitter Feed
    BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
    In this latest installment of the CEO Chat series, Craig Labovitz, co-founder and CEO of Deepfield, sits down with Light Reading's Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York City office to discuss how Deepfield fits in with the big data trend and more.
    Grant van Rooyen, president and CEO of Cologix, sits down with Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, in the vendor's New Jersey facility to offer an inside look at the company's success story and discuss the importance of security in the telecom industry.
    Animals with Phones
    Sloth Mail Click Here
    Sloth mail -- somehow even slower than snail mail.
    Live Digital Audio

    Of all the tech companies in the Valley, Intel has made the most aggressive commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workplace culture. It's doing so by taking concrete, measurable steps, making a large financial investment and through a commitment to complete transparency about its progress. In this radio show, WiC Director Sarah Thomas will be joined by Shlomit Weiss, Intel's Vice President, Data Center Group, and General Manager of Networking Engineering, who will share with us why Intel is tackling this huge challenge, how and to what effect. She will also discuss her unique experiences leading development of Client SOC development in the past and today leading development of all of the chipmaker's silicon hardware for networking IPs and discrete devices and managing a team of 600 engineers across Israel, Europe and the US.