Forsee readies plan for ailing Sprint

When Gary D. Forsee speaks at his first shareholder meeting since becoming Sprint Corp.'s chief executive, analysts say investors will want to hear his blueprint for the struggling company.

Forsee, a 1968 graduate of Cape Girardeau's Central High School, will face shareholders that are likely to be concerned about everything from weak financial results and falling stock prices, to the ouster of former CEO William T. Esrey and the company's desire to keep its independent auditor.

"I think they really are going to want to know how Sprint is going to get back on track and why they haven't been able to capitalize from Worldcom's downturn," said telecom analyst David Willis with META Group.

Willis added that competition in the industry is increasing, meaning Sprint executives don't have much time to turn the Overland Park, Kan.-based company around. For example, WorldCom Inc., could emerge from the largest-ever U.S. bankruptcy as early as September. It plans to take the name of its long-distance service, MCI.

"MCI is still struggling to come out," Willis said, "but six months out they're going to be out in full force."

In the last year, Sprint has remained profitable largely through cost-cutting measures. In 2002, Sprint earned $630 million, up from a $1.4 billion loss in 2001. But it also cut thousands of jobs, including 575 that were announced Monday.

Other turmoil at the company included the board's removal of longtime CEO William T. Esrey and Ronald LeMay, the former president and chief operating officer, over concerns about the pair's use of a questionable tax shelter. Esrey has remained Sprint's chairman during a transition period, but company spokeswoman Melinda Tiemeyer said he is not expected at Tuesday's meeting.

Willis said investors may give Forsee a pass this time on the financial problems, because he has not been with the company long. But, Willis added, "I don't think he has a lot of time."

Forsee was only in Cape Girardeau a relatively short time. He moved here in 1966 when his father became director of the local Social Security office. Forsee moved away to go to college at Rolla, Mo., when he graduated from high school.

But while he was here, he made many lasting friendships and still keeps in contact with several people in Cape Girardeau.