WAKE FOREST,Dan Hesse, a former chief executive officer at AT&T Wireless, is the new CEO of Sprint’s Local Telecommunications Division.

Hesse, 51, was named to the post on Tuesday.

Sprint’s local telecom division will be spun off from Sprint in 2006 following Sprint’s $38 billion merger with Nextel. The local division provides phone and data services in 18 states and employees 16,000 people.

One of Sprint’s largest operations is its Carolinas group, which maintains its headquarters near Wake Forest. Sprint employs some 5,400 people in North Carolina, and the company has 1.5 million local access lines in service in 67 North Carolina counties.

Sprint employs some 800 people in the Triangle. Steve Parrott, Sprint’s top executive for the Carolinas, is based in Wake Forest.

Once the spin-off takes place, Hesse will run the new company, Sprint said in a statement.

Mike Fuller, the current president of Sprint’s local division based in Kansas City, will be the chief marketing officer of the group following the spin-off, Sprint added.

Hesse’s hiring drew praise from telecom analyst Jeff Kagan, who told The Associated Press that Hesse is a “great choice”.

“The telecom market is changing dramatically and Sprint needs someone like Hesse to steer the company around the potholes and into the opportunities,” Kagan wrote in an e-mail to The AP.

Hesse was CEO of AT&T Wireless from 1997-2000. His most recent position was chairman, president and CEO of Terabeam, a wireless technology firm based in Seattle.

“Dan is an exceptional industry leader and brings extraordinary talent, depth and experience to our local business operations,” said Gary Forsee, Sprint’s chairman and CEO, in a statement. “He is a career telecom executive and has a keen understanding of the wireline and wireless industries and of the Internet. Many of the changes we’re still seeing today in the wireless industry are a result of his accomplishments at AT&T Wireless, which included the revolutionary AT&T Digital One Rate service offer. He is the leader Sprint will need as it plans to spin off its local operations in 2006.”

Forsee will be CEO of the merged Sprint-Nextel company.

The local division services some 7.7 million lines for customers. Of those, some 500,000 are digital subscriber lines for high-speed Internet access.

“I am excited by the prospect of creating an outstanding new company built on a strong tradition of performance,” Hesse said in a statement. “We’ll start with a strong foundation: the local division’s significant assets, its outstanding people, its large customer base, and its history of solid financial results. I look forward to joining a great team.”

Hesse worked his way up through the ranks at AT&T with positions in sales, product management, human resources and network operations before moving to AT&T Wireless. At one time he also was CEO of AT&T Network Systems. He earned a Masters of Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of technology, an MBA at Cornell and an undergraduate degree in government and international studies at Notre Dame.

Sprint: www.sprint.com