5G and Beyond

Verizon's CEO tries another management shakeup

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg announced another reshuffling of the company's front office in an attempt to rekindle investor interest in the company.

Specifically, Vestberg:

  • Named Sowmyanarayan Sampath as head of Verizon's Consumer business, the company's biggest unit. Sampath just last year was named CEO of Verizon Business, having taken over the position from Tami Erwin. Sampath is the third executive chosen by Vestberg to head up Verizon's struggling Consumer business after Ronan Dunne (2016 to 2021) and Manon Brouillette (2021-2022).
  • Moved Kyle Malady from Verizon's network operation to Sampath's old job as CEO of Verizon Business. He also promoted Joe Russo, previously SVP and chief network officer, to Malady's old job of EVP and president of global networks and technology.
  • Showed CFO Matt Ellis the door, with Controller Tony Skiadas taking over CFO duties while Vestberg looks for a permanent replacement.

Vestberg described the company's new team as its "next-generation leadership," according to The Wall Street Journal. "I think we were sleeping a little bit at the wheel," he said.

Vestberg remains

Vestberg is both Verizon's CEO and chairman. He told the WSJ that he would remain in his job as long as he has the support of the stakeholders. But that might not be much longer; as the publication pointed out, Verizon shares have fallen about 26% during Vestberg's tenure, while the S&P 500 index has increased over 41% over the same period.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. (Source: Erik Pendzich/Alamy Stock Photo)
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg.
(Source: Erik Pendzich/Alamy Stock Photo)

Indeed, some analysts had begun calling for a Vestberg replacement in the middle of last year amid the company's historic loss of customers.

Since 2018, Vestberg has overseen a massive investment by Verizon into 5G and related technologies like edge computing and private wireless. But company officials have admitted those opportunities haven't yet panned out as Verizon had hoped.

Meanwhile, Verizon rival T-Mobile continues to boast of its successes in the US market, both in its network upgrades and in its pursuit of new customers. Investors have responded, making T-Mobile the world's largest telecom operator by market cap.

A new generation of network execs

Vestberg's appointment of Joe Russo as Verizon's top network executive marks a major development in the 5G industry in the US specifically considering there is now new networking leadership at all of the major wireless network operators.

Last year, AT&T's Andre Fuetsch left the company to make way for Igal Elbaz and CTO Jeremy Legg.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile's longtime networking chief, Neville Ray, announced earlier this year he will retire and that he will be replaced by Ulf Ewaldsson, a former Ericsson executive who joined T-Mobile in 2019.

The changeups occur as all of the big 5G network operators in the US look to reduce network spending as they finish off their big midband spectrum buildouts. That pullback in US operator spending is already beginning to have a major impact on the market; for example, 5G equipment vendor Ericsson recently announced it would cut thousands of jobs across the US and the world.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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