A Familiar Face Returns to NII Holdings as CEO

A familiar face is returning next month to NII Holdings to take over as chief executive of the Reston wireless provider.

Steven P. Dussek, who ran the company in 1999 and 2000 when it was still a subsidiary of Nextel Communications, will rejoin NII's executive team on Feb. 11, the company said this week. NII's current chief executive Steve Shindler will retain the title of chairman once Dussek comes aboard. See the company's release.

"Knowing and working with [Dussek] over the past 20 years, I am confident he will add the energy, depth and strong leadership to our team as we pursue the numerous growth opportunities in our markets," Shindler said in a statement.

NII sells mobile phone services under the Nextel brand in several Latin American countries, with operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru. In mid-2002, the company -- at the time still a unit of Nextel -- filed for bankruptcy protection and restructured most of its debt. NII emerged from its reorganization several months later as a separate, publicly traded entity.

Dussek worked at Nextel from 1996 to 2001, a stint that included his two-year stewardship of NII, which was then known as Nextel International. After leaving Nextel, Dussek remained part of the Washington-area tech community, serving as chief executive of a Herndon wireless services firm called ScoreBoard and later as chairman of MobileAccess Networks, a Vienna-based company specializing in wireless infrastructure.

For the past few years, Dussek was chief executive of Dobson Communications, an Oklahoma-based provider of wireless services to consumer in rural areas. The company, whose subsidiaries include Cellular One, was bought in mid-November by AT&T for $2.8 billion.

Though he left Nextel nearly seven years ago, Dussek has never completely cut his ties with NII, having served on its board continuously since 1999. In a statement, he said he was pleased to be returning full-time to his old stomping grounds.

"I looked forward to building on and continuing NII's history of solid execution as it pursues numerous opportunities for profitable growth," he said.

In the third quarter, NII's earnings grew 24.2 percent to $81.6 million from $65.7 million during the comparable quarter a year ago. Revenue jumped 38.6 percent to $852.9 billion. The company is scheduled to issue full-year 2007 results next month.

In announcing Dussek's return, NII said it added 1.3 million net subscribers last year, a 38 percent increase from 2006 and ahead of its previous growth forecast. Its customer base now totals more than 4.7 million.

The company, which trades under the NHID symbol, also announced the completion of a $500 million stock buyback in the fourth quarter and its intention to repurchase another $500 million shares this year. As of Nov. 1, NII had 173 million shares outstanding, according to Bloomberg data.

Dussek has the unusual distinction of having a wine named in his honor. Bijal Shah, a longtime friend who owns Woodhouse Family Cellars, a vineyard in the Columbia Valley region of Washington state, released several limited vintages of a cabernet sauvignon and syrah with Dussek's name emblazoned on the label. The first four vintages of the cabernet sauvignon sold out, but 2003 vintages of both wines are still available.

-- Mike Shepard

By Mike Shepard  |  January 9, 2008; 7:36 PM ET  | Category:  Telecommunications
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Good to know that Steve is moving on to bigger and better things after sucking Dobson dry for around $20M in 2007 and engineering the loss of hundreds of jobs in Oklahoma City. The jobs lost, by the way, are the very people who actually did the work to make Dobson what it was. Dussek's sole contribution was to bring a bunch of buddies - who also made a lot of money off of other people's hard work in a short time. Dussek represents everything that is wrong with corporate America.

Posted by: Joe | January 10, 2008 3:38 PM

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