Clearwire appoints Vodafone veteran as new CEO

Bill Morrow, a former Vodafone executive, has been named as the new CEO of Clearwire. Ben Wolff, the man Morrow replaces, becomes co-chairman of the flagship mobile WiMAX operator, working alongside cellular pioneer Craig McCaw.

The change at the Clearwire helm comes only days after Wolff outlined ambitious plans for the operator to cover 120 million people with its US WiMAX network by the end of 2010.

The thinking seems to be that as Clearwire moves into an expansionist and operational phase, Morrow, 49, is better suited to the task than Wolff, who has gained a reputation as an effective dealmaker.

“Morrow brings nearly 30 years of operational management experience in the communications services industry,” Clearwire said in a statement. That experience includes spells of being CEO of Vodafone UK, CEO of Vodafone Europe, as well as president of Vodafone KK in Japan. He also recently served as president and CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric in San Francisco where McCaw says he ” oversaw operations and successfully directed an overhaul aimed at improving the company’s efficiency, supply chain and customer focus.” McCaw continues: “This experience, coupled with his outstanding leadership capabilities, makes Bill the perfect choice to lead Clearwire.”

McCaw also lavished praise on Wolff. “He has been instrumental in leading the company from its inception to the point that it is at today, raising more than $6bn in equity and debt financing, structuring partnerships with key industry leaders, and building and operating the world’s largest multi-megabit wireless broadband network spanning four countries and serving nearly 500,000 customers. I can’t say enough great things about Ben both as a person and a leader.”

As co-chairman, Wolff is to focus on Clearwire’s strategic and financing opportunities.

Morrow arrives at Clearwire at a critical time for the WiMAX industry, which is looking to the US operator to make an impact in the fixed and mobile broadband markets ahead of Verizon’s projected commercial launch of rival ‘4G’ technology LTE next year.

While Intel, Google and three US cable companies injected a total of $3.2bn capital in exchange for Clearwire equity last year at a cost of $17 per share, Clearwire’s share price as of end of trading Monday stood at $2.93, but was up nearly four per cent on the day.

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