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Use of a questionable tax shelter led the carrier's board to force out Esrey as chief executive and Ronald LeMay as president and chief operating officer.
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) -- Sprint Corp. chairman William T. Esrey stepped down Tuesday, handing the leadership position he had held for more than a decade at the huge telecommunications concern to chief executive Gary Forsee, the company announced.
The change of command came at the company's annual shareholders meeting where shareholders approved a proposal the company opposed concerning severance agreements with executives.
The proposal requires Sprint to seek shareholders' approval if the severance package is more than double the executives' base salary plus bonuses. Sprint is not legally obligated to enact the proposal, but Forsee said the board would consider the vote.
Forsee acted as chairman at the shareholders meeting Tuesday, but made no reference to Esrey's departure. At the meeting, Forsee introduced three men who were appointed to senior management positions.
Esrey's resignation had been expected in conjunction with the shareholders meeting. Use of a questionable tax shelter led the board to force out Esrey as chief executive and Ronald LeMay as Sprint's president and chief operating officer earlier this year.
Esrey had retained his role as chairman during a transitional phase.
Esrey, 63, had been with the company since 1980. He was elected chief executive in 1985 and chairman in 1990. The board of directors gave Esrey the honorary title of chairman emeritus. Forsee, 53, replaced Esrey as chief executive in March.
Forsee told shareholders he had spent the weeks since his hiring completing a crash course in Sprint operating plans.
"I have come away convinced we are taking the right approach to tackling the challenges in front of us and have the assets and team to pursue our plan effectively," Forsee said.
He said the company's top priorities must be to grow revenue, improve customer service, improve Sprint's bottom line, develop a "culture of winning" and build Sprint's brand.
With Tuesday's appointments, Forsee said Sprint's senior management team was complete.
Howard E. Janzen, 49, was named the president of Sprint's Global Markets Group, filling a position vacated in September when Len Lauer became president of the company's PCS operations. LeMay had been leading the group until his resignation.
Janzen leaves Williams Communications, where he was the company's chairman, president and chief executive officer.
Michael W. Stout, 56, was named executive vice president and chief information officer. Stout will oversee Sprint's Information Technology Services.
Stout comes to Sprint from GE Capital, where he served as chief technology and information officer.
Bruce N. Hawthorne, 53, was named executive vice president and chief staff officer. Hawthorne, who has worked with Sprint as outside legal counsel for nearly 15 years, will oversee integration of all Sprint staff operations.
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