Sprint Names Activist Investor to Its Board

Sprint Nextel said today it has named activist investor Ralph V. Whitworth to the company's board. Whitworth's investment firm Relational Investors hold 51.2 million shares of Sprint, according to Bloomberg -- nearly 2 percent of the outstanding stock.

Whitworth, 52, said he would work with other board members to "rebuild shareholder value" at the Reston-based company. Since its ill-fated $35 billion merger in 2005 with Nextel, the company's shares have fallen 58 percent, closing yesterday at $9.73.

"A turnaround at Sprint Nextel won't be easy, but I believe the ingredients are in place to get the job done for the company's shareholders," Whitworth said in a statement.

Sprint installed Dan Hesse as its new chief executive in December, and since then, the company has been in shake up mode. Several top executives, including finance chief Paul Saleh, have left and last month Sprint announced that it would cut 4,000 jobs and close 125 retail stores.

Whitworth has served as a director at other companies during big turnarounds, including Waste Management and Apria HealthCare Group. Last year, his firm amassed a big stake in Home Depot, and succeeded in placing a representative on the home improvement retailer's board.

Whitworth's term as a Sprint director lasts until the company's 2008 annual meeting, when he will have to run for re-election to the board.

By Mike Shepard  |  February 12, 2008; 10:34 AM ET
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