Clearwire has hired William (Bill) T. Morrow as CEO. Morrow had a long career with Vodaphone, though most recently he had been serving as president and CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco.
Co-founder and current CEO Ben Wolff will become co-chairman, sharing that title with current chairman Craig McCaw.
The company is one of the likeliest vehicles for getting into wireless services for several of its backers, including MSOs Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, along with Intel and Google.
Clearwire is preparing to build-out a nationwide WiMAX network and burn through $1.5 billion to $1.9 billion of its investment capital in the next year. The company must move quickly to stay ahead of Verizon Wireless’ competing Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, which should go live by the end of the year on a limited basis.
The company stressed Morrow’s track record of imposing strict operating discipline on the organizations he’s headed. That’s entirely consistent with goals the company stated as it reported its 2008 financials: The company needs to marshal its resources, operate efficiently and spend wisely as it rolls out WiMAX service across the country during a recession.
“Years of experience in key positions with great companies such as AirTouch and Vodafone have given Bill a great perspective on achieving operating efficiencies and enhancing value creation to profitably build and scale businesses," said McCaw.
At PG&E, Morrow was credited with an overhaul aimed at improving the company's efficiency, supply chain and customer focus. Prior to joining PG&E, Morrow held various positions at Vodaphone in Europe and Japan. He also served as president of Japan Telecom and held senior executive positions with wireless telecommunications carrier AirTouch International.
As co-chairman, Wolff will focus on Clearwire's strategic and financing opportunities. In addition, he will continue to serve on the Executive Committee and board of CTIA, and he will also continue in his role as president of McCaw’s investment company, Eagle River.
Stock of Clearwire’s majority owner, Sprint Nextel, rose more than 9 percent in early trading after Clearwire announced late yesterday that Wolff would be replaced by Morrow. Clearwire’s stock was mostly flat in early trading.
“It’s a reflection of the market realities that Clearwire and its board faces,” says Ashvin Vellody, senior vice president of enabling technologies at the Yankee Group. “They have a very clear financial goal, and it has to be met. Execution, to as large an extent as possible, will determine its success in the next few months.”
– Wireless Week’s Maisie Ramsay contributed to this report