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Sprint boots three more execs

Beleaguered wireless carrier is shaking up its executive team in an effort to get back on track.

Sprint Nextel is looking for replacements at the top of its corporate food chain.

On Thursday, the beleaguered wireless carrier said that three of its top execs, including Chief Financial Officer Paul Saleh, are leaving the company effective Friday. The company named Senior Vice President and Controller William Arendt as the interim CFO, while it searches for a permanent replacement.

Tim Kelly, chief marketing officer, and Mark Angelino, president of sales and distribution, are also stepping down.

Sprint has been in the process of reshaping its executive team for the past few months. Chief Executive Officer Gary Forsee was the first top executive to be forced out of the company in October. Dan Hesse, who had been the CEO of Embarq, a Sprint spin-off took over the top position in December.

This most recent executive shake-up comes a week after the company said it expects big losses in cell phone subscribers for the fourth quarter of 2007 when it reports earnings February 28. It also said that 2008's outlook isn't looking so good either.

In another effort to get the business back on track, Sprint said last week that it will cut 4,000 jobs and close about 8 percent of its retail stores--moves that should help cut costs between $700 million and $800 million a year, according to the company.

But job cuts won't necessarily solve the company's main problem, which is retaining cell phone subscribers. Last week, Sprint said that for the fourth quarter of 2007 it had lost a total of 683,000 post-paying subscribers and 202,000 pre-paying subscribers, ending 2007 with 53.8 million post-paying subscribers and 4.1 million pre-paying customers.

Meanwhile, AT&T, the largest wireless operator in the country, said Thursday that it added a record 2.68 million new mobile subscribers in the fourth quarter, bringing its total to 70.05 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2007.

Much of Sprint's problems stem from the 2005 acquisition of Nextel Communications. Network integration of the two companies has not gone smoothly, and former Nextel customers have complained of worsening service. Investors have criticized the company's top brass for not focusing enough attention on the core business.

In particular, critics are skeptical of Sprint's plans to build a fourth generation using a technology called WiMax. Sprint has already committed to spending $5 billion on the network, which is expected to begin commercial roll-outs in the first half of the year.

Even though Sprint's management has said it plans to continue to move forward with its WiMax plans, a new team in the executive suite could change the strategy dramatically.