New Sprint CEO Marcel Claure could have the drive — and the connections — to help Sprint stay in the wireless game.
Sprint Chairman Masayoshi Son on Wednesday named the the Bolivian-born billionaire to head the third-largest wireless company in the U.S. Claure, 43, is a known quantity to Son, who is also CEO and chairman of Softbank, which owns Sprint.
Softbank had already invested in the Miami-based Latin American wireless distribution firm Brightstar, which Claure founded in 1997 and grew to $10.5 billion in revenue last year, doing business in more than 125 countries. Softbank will now purchase Claure's Brightstar shares, growing its majority stake to 90.8%.
Claure "exudes entrepreneurial spirit," says Roger Entner, an analyst with Recon Analytics. "Sprint needs entrepreneurial spirit."
Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Claure convinced his father to invest his life savings to start Brightstar, he told students at a commencement speech at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., in 2004. He graduated from the university in 1993 with a degree in economics and finance and also received an honorary doctorate in commercial science.
Brightstar grew to the 55th largest privately held company in the U.S., according to Forbes magazine, and has been the largest Hispanic-owned business in the U.S. over the last three years and 2007-2009.
Claure, who is married with four children, is also a member of The Wall Street Journal CEO Council and serves on Florida International University's board of trustees. Brightstar is also a founding partner in One Laptop Per Child charity.
He has a keen interest in soccer, too. He has partnered with David Beckham to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Miami and has owned the Bolivian soccer team Bolivar since 2008.
Claure met Beckham through friend Jennifer Lopez, who performed with then-husband Marc Anthony at Claure's 40th birthday party. "He is not a shrinking violet," says Entner of Claure.
Still, Claure might have been a CEO player "waiting in the wings," says Angelo Zino, an analyst with financial research firm S&P Capital IQ. He suspects that outspoken T-Mobile CEO John Legere may have been the eventual CEO of a merged Sprint-T-Mobile.
With that deal scuttled, Softbank's Son tabbed Claure — whose presence could do for Sprint what Legere has done for T-Mobile. Compared to outgoing CEO Dan Hesse, Claure "seems much more driven, given where he is in his life, Zino says.
Whether he will succeed at Sprint remains to be seen. "He is going to have to be a lot more aggressive on pricing and give the consumer what they want," he says.
Claure, who was not available for comment, might fall back on something he told that commencement crowd a decade ago. "Don't take no for an answer," he told them. "Plenty of people will tell you why you shouldn't do something, but few will tell you why you should."