Executive Shake-Up at Clearwire Prompts More Questions

When does this story get better? Clearwire, the early 4G WiMAX pioneer announced its CEO Bill Morrow is stepping down for personal reasons, part of a larger executive shake-up that includes the exit of chief commercial officer Mike Sievert, and CIO Kevin Hart. This follows not long after the December departure of company Founder and Chairman Craig McCaw.

Clearwire’s current Chairman John Stanton, the former CEO of Western Wireless and VoiceStream Wireless, has been named interim CEO, replacing Morrow who has been at the helm for two years. Erik Prusch, Clearwire’s CFO, has been named chief operating officer, while Hope Cochran, Clearwire’s SVP and treasurer, has been promoted to CFO. The executive shuffle and departures highlight the precarious state of Clearwire, which was out front in the race to 4G but has struggled to turn its advantage into a winning business. And may suggest some big company moves to come.

The company is struggling with cash flow problems and had to go to public markets to sell $1.33 billion in debt to keep building the network. It reportedly halted its retail business last month. And with cash tight, the company has been forced to cut jobs and slow its network deployment. It’s also looking at selling its valuable spectrum to drum up money and has been sparring with majority owner Sprint (s s) about pricing and the direction of the company. Clearwire said today it’s close to resolving its whole pricing dispute with Sprint. Even with that out of the way, there are a lot of issues facing Clearwire. Another one popped up today when 15 customers sued the company for not delivering advertised speeds.

Om asked back in December if the turmoil was forcing Clearwire into an acquisition by Sprint. Sprint owns 54 percent of Clearwire and has said that Clearwire’s WiMAX is its 4G strategy but is now reportedly looking at deploying LTE. The question is what happens to Clearwire if Sprint makes a move toward LTE? Both are tied to each other in a dysfunctional relationship but Clearwire’s positions seems to be more in doubt. Is it getting close to getting sold? Om wondered aloud in December if the McCaw’s exit was a precursor to some big company-defining moment or an executive shake-up. Well we have the executive ranks shuffling. Now is it time for a big move?