This week a familiar face is making a move to the wireless sector after a long run. CenturyLink’s CFO Sunit Patel resigned from the company effective this Friday, and will be taking on an EVP role as Merger and Integration Lead for T-Mobile US.
Patel led Level 3’s finances from 2003 through the company’s merger last year with CenturyLink, a nearly 15 year run. In that time he oversaw an epic list of merger integrations and complex refinancings as the company fought its way out of the debt hole it found itself in after the dot com crash. At CenturyLink it’s been a year of integration and transition as well.
Now he’s going to join John Legere at T-Mobile just in time to integrate that company with Sprint, assuming regulators don’t get in the way. That merger was announced back in April, and probably has another six months if not more to go before closing.
For CenturyLink it’s not a particularly good time to switch CFOs, but I don’t think this has anything to do with their own ongoing process and more to do with Patel’s readiness to make a move. Fourteen years is a long run, and the change in cultures from nextgen challenger Level 3 to what is now kind of a half-ILEC at CenturyLink could have something to do with that also.
It seems more likely to me that he was just ready to move on, and jumping over to the ‘Uncarrier’ in the wireless sector is a logical place to head next. The integration there will be larger and just as messy and complex as any he has previously undertaken — just with less fiber and more consumers.
That being said, I’m sure people will be watching the next CenturyLink earnings call pretty closely for any slip-ups. In the hot seat for that will be CenturyLink’s group VP of Finance Neel Dev, also a Level 3 veteran, who will be taking over the financial reins while the company initiates a search for a new CFO.
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