Sprint picks former Altice CEO Combes to be CFO as Robbiati leaves

05 January 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


Sprint has appointed former Altice CEO Michel Combes as CFO, replacing Tarek Robbiati, who leaves at the end of the month.

Michel CombesCombes was fired from his job at Altice in November 2017 after worsening financial performance. His previous position, as the last CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, ended with the troubled equipment vendor being taken over by Nokia.

“Michel is an extremely capable and accomplished global telecom and cable industry leader and I know bringing him on board will help to accelerate our progress as Sprint begins the next chapter of our transformation,” said Marcelo Claure, CEO of Sprint, whose controlling shareholder is the Japanese group SoftBank.

“He is a visionary executive with a proven track record of successfully transforming leading telecom and media companies and will help us to execute our strategic plan and strengthen our team,” said Claure.

The CEO also paid tribute to Robbiati, a former Telstra executive who joined Sprint as CFO in August 2015. “Tarek’s contributions to Sprint have been invaluable including his leadership to drive operating cost reductions and execute innovative financial transactions to fund our turnaround and significantly reduce the company’s cost of capital,” said Claure.

Robbiati spent two years with Orange in London and Paris but then joined Telstra in November 2005, where he was deputy CFO before becoming CEO of CSL, the mobile operator in Hong Kong that was then part of the group. He then became group managing director of Telstra International, still in Hong Kong.

Claure said: “Today Sprint is in its best liquidity position in years and that is in large part due to the financial discipline and innovative financing that Tarek implemented.”

Sprint was in merger negotiations with Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile US until November 2017, when they failed to agree on the structure of a combined unit.

Shortly after, Sprint said goodbye to Günther Ottendorfer, chief operating officer technology, who said he was returning to Vienna, where he’d previous been CTO of the Telekom Austria group, at the end of 2017.

Combes said of his new role: “This is an exciting challenge and unique opportunity to help lead a distinguished company through an historic turnaround and its most exciting period yet.” Before joining Alcatel-Lucent he was CEO of Vodafone Europe and was earlier chairman and CEO of TDF, a French tower company.

Combes has been an advisor to Brightstar, the company founded by Claure, to support its global expansion. “I have known Marcelo for many years and am delighted to join the Sprint team and build upon the great progress achieved to date,” said Combes.