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Marcelo Claure Begins to Reshape Sprint, Takes Aim at Latino Market

Sprint's new CEO has already shaken up pricing. Now he is starting to change the corporate structure and focus as well.

Jorge R. Perez

When Marcelo Claure took the reins at Sprint earlier this year, his first move was to try to reshape the way customers viewed the company, starting with new pricing options.

But from the outset, Claure also talked about cutting costs and getting the right team in place. With its earnings report at the beginning of the month, Sprint announced 2,000 layoffs as well as dimmer-than-expected financial results.

Now Claure is making changes in the top ranks of the company. In an internal memo last week, Claure outlined both the specifics of the changes and the reasoning behind the moves.

“It’s often said that the people are the greatest asset of a company. I disagree,” Claure wrote in the memo. “The right people are the most important asset, not just people, and we have to be very disciplined in our pursuit of always having the right team.”

On that front, Claure announced the departure of three longtime Sprint executives: Enterprise head Matt Carter, Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Hallock and communications chief Bill White. White will leave at the end of the year, Hallock by March 31 and Carter once a replacement is found.

Gaining additional responsibilities in the reorganization were Dow Draper, president of the prepaid unit and now also responsible for Sprint’s wholesale business, and Jaime Jones, who was promoted to president of Sprint’s core postpaid unit.

Sprint has also brought in some outside hires, including Technical Chief Operating Officer Junichi Miyakawa, who was brought in from Japanese parent SoftBank. Claure said he will continue to look for talent from SoftBank as well as from within and outside Sprint as he fills out the leadership ranks.

Claure also signaled his intent to focus on the Hispanic and multicultural market. Claure is making that area one of four key business units, alongside postpaid, prepaid and the enterprise market. He noted that there are already 54 million Hispanic people in the United States, with the broader multicultural market representing the fastest growing demographic opportunity.

“We must capitalize on the changing demographics of the nation to win in the wireless market,” Claure wrote in last week’s memo. “We’re conducting a comprehensive search for the best candidate to lead this group and expect to hire someone in the near future.”

A Sprint representative declined to comment further on this effort.

It is an area where Claure has direct experience. As head of distributor Brightstar prior to its acquisition by SoftBank, Claure spearheaded a joint venture with Verizon, Jennifer Lopez and store operator Cellular Connection. Called Viva Movil, it was an effort to cater specifically to the growing Latino market.

The effort was slow to take off, but that was more likely a testament to the changing business dynamics of the main partners than of the size of the opportunity. SoftBank acquired Brightstar and its controlling interest in Sprint, making Brightstar’s continued participation untenable.

Viva Movil, meanwhile, closed a Brooklyn location earlier this year, and a representative said in an August statement that the company’s remaining partners were “evaluating each Viva Movil location and its ability to meet performance expectations on an individual basis.”

Rival T-Mobile struck a partnership earlier this year with Univision to work together on service targeted at the Hispanic market as well.

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