Sprint Replaces CFO With 'Turnaround Strategist' Michel Combes

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Sprint is replacing its Chief Financial Officer Tarek Robbiati with Michel Combes, a 55-year-old it calls a "turnaround strategist," the company said Thursday. Mr. Combes will also assume the title of Sprint's President and officially start on Saturday, whereas his predecessor will leave the firm on January 31st following a transitional period. The new executive's reputation isn't unfounded; the French businessmen was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Alcatel-Lucent in early 2013 at a time when the company has been severely overleveraged and close to bankruptcy, having ultimately managed to cut its costs and sell it to Nokia. Likewise, he played a key role in France Télécom's rebranding to Orange S.A. which helped the company bounce back following its privatization in the first decade of the 21st century.

Mr. Combes served as COO and later CEO of Altice N.V., his final destination in the telecom industry prior to his decision to join the fourth largest mobile service provider in the United States. The newly appointed executive is already acquainted with Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure who founded Miami-based wireless equipment supplier Brightstar in 1997 which later ended up employing Mr. Combes. Sprint's senior leadership hasn't provided an explanation in regards to why Mr, Robbiati is being laid off, having instead chosen to focus on the new arrival and his 30 years of experience in the telecommunications sector. Sprint's departing CFO recently came under fire after analytics firm BTIG suggested his revenue growth projections for 2018 are highly unrealistic, adding that Sprint's current turnaround course isn't wrong but should have been set years ago, whereas the firm is now forced to play catch-up with the rest of the industry while already being in an unenviable position in regards to its overleveraged assets and upcoming infrastructural investments.

A tie-up with T-Mobile that Sprint discussed for the better part of 2017 could have addressed the majority of the company's current issues but ended up falling apart after Deutsche Telekom and SoftBank were unable to come to an agreement in regards to the ownership structure of the hypothetical combined entity. According to some estimates, that development resulted in up to $50 billion in lost synergies and is regarded by some as both T-Mobile and Sprint's biggest failure in 2017.

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