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What’s in a Name?

As an AT&T veteran, Embarq CEO Daniel Hesse well knows the power a strong brand can wield. “I grew up …

As an AT&T veteran, Embarq CEO Daniel Hesse well knows the power a strong brand can wield. “I grew up genuflecting in front of the Death Star,” says Hesse, referring to the spherical blue logo of the parent company of AT&T Wireless, where he served as CEO for three years. “Everything we did at the company was described in terms of making deposits or withdrawals from the brand bank.”

Little surprise then that Hesse welcomed his first task as the new CEO of Sprint Nextel’s spin-off of its local phone division: choosing a brand new name and logo. In fact, the “chance to build a brand from scratch” was a deciding factor for Hesse, who had been about to take the CEO chair at another company when the opportunity to take over the $6.7 billion spin-off came up. “That’s a big part of what enticed me to this job-the chance to have a clean break from the telecom past and pick something new and different and futuristic.”

Embarq CEO Daniel Hesse

A futuristic name for an archaic landline company? Sprint, after all, is jettisoning the local division to focus on pursuing the rapid-growth wireless market. These days, the words “landline” and “future” are rarely seen together. In fact, news of Hesse’s new post prompted a flurry of calls from former wireless colleagues mystified by his move into the “stone age” business.

But Hesse doesn’t see it that way. In his view, of the Overland Park, Kans.-based company’s product lines (local and long distance voice, data, high speed Internet, wireless and entertainment services), only voice-the largest by far-is on the decline. “Over time the other parts will get large enough to offset that decline so the total can grow,” he promises.

To make that happen, Hesse and his team are working feverishly to develop new wireless voice and data services, which will run on Sprint Nextel’s system, and to sell bundles that combine high-speed Internet, DISH Network satellite TV and wireless. Already, Embarq offers integrated voice mail so that all of a customer’s messages-whether left on a home or cell phone-are funneled to a single voice mailbox.

Soon to come are features that will enable you to hit a button on your cell phone as you walk indoors and have all the calls ring through to your home phone and to automatically synchronize the address books on your cell and home phones. There will be unlimited calls between a customer’s land and wireless phones and one bill for both services. The thinking? The greater the integration between wire less and wired and the more services can be bundled into a landline plan, the less likely the customers will drop their land ser vice-and the more likely they will choose Embarq for wireless.

“Wire lines will always have a speed advantage on data, and in the future there will be a lot more seamless transitioning from wireless to wire lines,” asserts Hesse. “The opportunity that presents is what attracted me to this business.”

About Jennifer Pellet

As editor-at-large at Chief Executive magazine, Jennifer Pellet writes feature stories and CEO roundtable coverage and also edits various sections of the publication.