Sprint Dumps CEO Hesse for Entrepreneur Board Member

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Update: Sprint announced this morning that it is replacing CEO Dan Hesse with board member Marcelo Claure, founder and CEO of mobile phone distributor BrightStar. SoftBank Corp. owns a controlling interest in both Sprint and BrightStar. Claure takes the reins on Monday.

When this week started, T-Mobile US Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) was being pursued by two suitors, one a brash, young French upstart and the other an older, wiser, richer company looking for one — perhaps the last — chance at glory. By Wednesday morning, both are history.

T-Mobile rejected the blandishments (and the $15 billion) of French wireless firm Iliad, apparently convinced that Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) would commit to an offer worth double that amount in cash. Those hopes were dashed Tuesday when Sprint’s board decided to put an end to the proposed deal. To draw a line under its decision, Sprint is also reported to be replacing CEO Dan Hesse.

SoftBank Corp., Sprint and Hesse have argued that Sprint has no chance of being a major competitor to the two top wireless providers in the United States, Verizon Communication Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), unless Sprint and T-Mobile merge and create a viable number three. SoftBank must have changed its mind and while the Japanese firm was at it, decided that having Hesse hang around and mope probably wasn’t the best thing for the company going forward.

On its face squelching the merger seems like a poor decision on Sprint’s part. There’s little question that T-Mobile has been the more innovative and aggressive of the two smaller companies. To top it off, reports by sources close to the discussions had T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere being elevated to head the merged firm.

Now, does T-Mobile return to a possible deal with Iliad? Does it decide to go it alone? Does it look for another suitor? No larger U.S. company can buy the firm. AT&T already tried that. Regulators were hinting strongly that a deal with Sprint would be rejected. That leaves only a foreign company with no current presence in the U.S., at the same time that AT&T is perhaps looking to buy a foreign carrier because it has no options left in the U.S.

Sprint stock was down nearly 18% in premarket trading Wednesday to $6.03, within a dime of its 52-week low of $5.92. Shares closed at $7.28 Tuesday. The 52-week high is $11.47.

T-Mobile’s shares were down about 8.5%, at $31.00 in a 52-week range of $22.95 to $35.50.

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