In a move that signals confidence that T-Mobile’s proposed merger with Sprint will be approved, CenturyLink’s Chief Financial Officer Sunit Patel is leaving the company to join T-Mobile where he’ll lead integration efforts of the nation’s third and fourth largest wireless carriers’ businesses.
Patel was CFO at Level 3 Communications for more than 14 years before it was acquired by CenturyLink in 2017, and has experience with a number of large-scale strategic transactions – including Level 3’s acquisitions of network operator Global Crossing and business internet provider TW Telecom.
Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche said in a Tuesday note to investors that the firm sees the hire as a “significant positive” for T-Mobile.
According to Wells Fargo, one of Patel’s greatest strengths has been “accessing the capital markets and synergy attainment—especially in the wake of mergers.”
“We believe Patel’s skill sets will fit very well with where the New TMUS will be in its evolution,” Fritzsche wrote. Synergy realization will be critical in the first year path for T-Mobile and Sprint, she says, noting that Patel’s track record with integrations adds “excellent credibility to this path.”
Patel will start his new role as EVP and merger and integration lead at T-Mobile effective Oct. 1, reporting to Mike Sievert, T-Mobile’s chief operating officer. T-Mobile says Patel will head up strategic planning efforts to combine the company’s business with Sprint, as both work through regulatory reviews and other closing conditions.
“We are increasingly optimistic about the path we’re on to create the New T-Mobile and are now looking forward to bringing someone with Sunit’s experience to our team to lead us through the strategic planning for integration of our businesses — one of the most exciting and integral aspects of this merger,” said Sievert in a statement.“Sunit has the depth of knowledge needed to create and drive forward a highly complex, strategic initiative of this magnitude. He will have a tremendous impact on shaping the New T-Mobile, and will add even more value to the company for many years to come.”
Indeed, Fritzsche thinks the move indicates confidence in completion of the proposed $26.5 billion merger.
“We would be very hard pressed to believe Patel would take this job as Integration Lead if he (and others) didn’t firmly believe the S/TMUS merger would get consummated,” Fritzsche wrote.
Over at CenturyLink, meanwhile, Neel Dev, the company’s VP of finance is taking over as interim CFO effective Sept. 28. Dev has been part of Patel’s leadership team for 14 years and was integration planning lead for the Level 3 acquisition.
Wells Fargo views the departure as a “modes unknown,” for CenturyLink, as the firm believes, “much of the heavy CFO lifting job is behind it.”
CenturyLink said it will consider both internal and external candidates during the search for a permanent replacement.