Clearwire CEO steps down

Struggling WiMax operator Clearwire is looking for a new CEO: the company announced Bill Morrow is immediately stepping down as CEO for “personal reasons.” Morrow will continue to serve as an advisor to the company during its transition period to a new executive; in the meantime, Clearwire chairman John Stanton will serve as both chairman and interim CEO of the company. Board member Dennis Hersch has been named to head up the search committee for a new CEO.

Two other high-level Clearwire executives—chief commercial officer Mike Sievert and CIO Kevin Hart—are also stepping down to “pursue other opportunities.”

“I would like to commend Bill for his tremendous leadership in building the first U.S. 4G network, adding more than 5 million subscribers, and raising funds in a challenging economic environment,” said Stanton, in a statement. “Together, the entire management team at Clearwire remains focused on delivering value to its customers and shareholders.”

Stanton is no stranger to running wireless businesses: he’s chairman of Clearwire’s board of directors, and is the former CEO of VoiceStream Wireless and Western Wireless.

Morrow’s unexpected departure comes as Clearwire is still working to iron out difficulties with U.S. mobile operator Sprint, which is Clearwire’s major investor and customer: Sprint is unhappy with rates it pays Clearwire for WiMax service and doesn’t want to compete with Clearwire in the retail arena for WiMax customers.

Last month Clearwire indicated a resolution with Sprint was “imminent,” and re-iterated that position in announcing Morrow’s departure. “Today’s changes in executive leadership are not expected to impact the company’s progress on an agreement with Sprint to resolve wholesale pricing disputes.”

Clearwire faces another challenge in the form of a class action lawsuit attacking the company’s practices of throttling data speeds (sometimes as low as 256 Kbps) without warning or notification to customers. The suit likens Clearwire’s throttling practices to a Ponzi scheme, claiming the company advertises service levels that it knows it cannot meet.

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