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Sprint Shuffles Cable JV Execs

Sprint Nextel moved John Garcia out of his role as president of the company’s joint venture with four cable operators and hired a former BellSouth executive, Keith Cowan, to oversee the JV.

Garcia will assume the role of senior vice president of product management and development, reporting to Sprint chief marketing officer Tim Kelly. Garcia previously reported to Sprint chairman and CEO Gary Forsee.

In addition, Sprint appointed Jim Patterson -- currently VP of cable solutions -- to become “acting president” of the JV, focusing on cable-partner relationships, planning and technology integration.

Sprint expanded Garcia’s role in October 2006, giving him responsibility for voice-over-Internet-protocol services provided to cable, in addition to handling the mobile-phone JV. In announcing the executive changes Wednesday, Sprint said Garcia will continue to be responsible for product development for the Pivot brand and Sprint's mobile-virtual-network-operator program.

"John's successes at Sprint are unparalleled and his keen understanding of convergence will be a key asset in enhancing our mobility-product pipeline," Forsee said in a prepared statement. "John developed and implemented the sales, distribution, handset and marketing strategies that drove Sprint's initial growth in the wireless industry, and he is uniquely qualified to assert our advantages in this competitive marketplace."

The four cable operators part of the Sprint JV formed in November 2005 -- Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse Communications -- have taken a “go-slow” approach to ramping up the Sprint-provided mobile phone service. Comcast and Time Warner said they have signed up several-thousand Pivot customers since soft-launching service in a handful of markets in late 2006.

Cowan will join the company July 9 as president of strategic planning and corporate initiatives, in charge of Sprint's strategic-growth initiatives, including the cable JV and the 4G Mobile Broadband initiative, in addition to overall strategic planning. Cowan will report to Forsee.

Cowan, 51, was most recently executive VP at Genuine Parts, which operates 1,100 NAPA Auto Parts stores in more than 40 states. Before joining Genuine Parts in February, Cowan spent more than one decade at BellSouth (now part of AT&T), where his positions included chief planning and development officer and chief field-operations officer. Cowan, who has a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, was previously a partner at law firm Alston & Bird.

Forsee said in a statement that Cowan is "a results-oriented individual and will be a strong addition to the Sprint Nextel leadership team … He has a track record of performance in communications and technology that will be a tremendous asset to our company as we continue to seek ways to unlock shareholder value.”

Reporting to Cowan will be Patterson; Barry West, chief technology officer and president of the 4G Mobile Broadband group; and Jack Dziak, senior VP of strategy.