Sprint CEO Outlines Shakeup of Entire Company

(The Kansas City Star/MCT) -

New Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure outlined a continuing shake-up Thursday that promises to touch every corner of the struggling wireless company.

Claure, on the job only since Aug. 11, already has changed Sprint’s pricing, data allowances, advertisements and marketing.

Everything else comes next and with a single goal in mind, Claure said in his most extensive remarks to date about his plans for Sprint.

“What we’re going to focus on, and we’re going to be crazy about it, is to get customers back to us,” Claure said at a New York investor event sponsored by investment-banking firm Goldman Sachs.

Claure rattled off change after change in the works at the Overland Park, Kansas-based business.

— Who makes up his management team.

— “Every single dollar that gets spent at Sprint.”

— The strategy for boosting Sprint’s lagging network speeds.

— The kinds of business Sprint pursues.

— Sprint’s working relationship with its Tokyo-based owner, SoftBank Corp.

— The rules employees follow at store counters.

The one topic Claure skipped over was jobs.

Outsiders have said his earlier promise to slash costs almost certainly will mean job cuts. But he did not touch on the fate of the company’s 36,000 employees, which includes 7,500 in the Kansas City area.

Thursday’s event was Claure’s Wall Street debut, and he made a point to emphasize that changes lie ahead.

Claure said he rejected advice to make no changes during his first 100 days as the head of a publicly traded company.

“I just couldn’t help myself,” he said.

His remarks played well on the stock market, where Sprint shares climbed more than 6 percent for the second day in a row. Shares rose 42 cents Thursday to close at $6.57.

“Today’s presentation set an important tone about the new Sprint and gave us confidence that it is being looked at with a set of fresh eyes,” analyst Jennifer Fritzsche said in a note to clients of Wells Fargo Securities.

Sprint has been shedding subscribers steadily, watching many of them sign up with its rivals Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere had bragged Wednesday that August was its best month ever for signing up customers and that T-Mobile would end this year with more subscribers than Sprint.

Even Sprint’s team of vice presidents was unable to answer Claure’s first question to them: “Why would anybody want to buy a Sprint phone?”

The silence, plus talks with dealers and customers, led to the quick change in pricing, plans that offer consumers more data and new advertisements that dropped “a hamster talking to people,” Claure said.

And he said some of the first moves to cut prices have had an impact. Claure said there have been a few days recently in which Sprint gained more customers than it lost.

“That’s a big deal,” Claure said.

It had not happened since Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp. acquired control of Sprint last year, he said.

Claure told his New York audience that his vice presidents know they’re all under review, adding that some “might not be up for the ride.” The vice presidents were told, “ ‘Some of you will make it. Some of you won’t,’ and they understand,” he said.

In rebuilding his management team, Claure said he would recruit from outside the company and promote from within it.

Spending also is under close scrutiny because Sprint must lower its costs in providing service, Claure said.

“Every single dollar that gets spent out of Sprint gets monitored now,” he said.

Sprint formed an office specifically to manage costs. He has told employees that the company can only spend money on what it needs to have, not on what would be nice to have.

“We have a pretty extensive list that the company has accumulated that are nice-to-haves. Those are the first that are going to go,” he said in New York.

Asked about the list, Claure said he will share it with employees first.

Claure said he also is changing the strategy behind speeding up its last-place network data speeds. Data is what smartphones consume when customers view videos, stream music or browse the web.

Sprint is rolling out a faster service called Sprint Spark using its vast holding of untapped wireless spectrum. Spectrum are the licensed airwaves it uses to carry data traffic.

Crews have been working to deploy Spark using the spectrum across the entire network, eventually with the goal of leapfrogging rivals’ network speeds.