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Sprint Chief Cuts Pay After Shareholder Complaint Over IPhone

By Greg Bensinger Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) Chief Executive Dan Hesse agreed to cut $3.25 million from his compensation package after shareholders complained that his pay didn't account for the hefty upfront expense of carrying the Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPhone. The company had boosted Hesse's 2011 compensation by 31% to $11.9 million, in part because the formula used to determine his compensation hadn't factored in the cost of buying millions of iPhones, which carry some of the highest subsidies in the industry. Hesse, in a letter filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday, said he was voluntarily cutting some short- and long-term bonuses as well as some stock awards. Sprint agreed to buy $15.5 billion in iPhones over the next few years and said it wouldn't make a profit on the deal until 2015. The carrier lost 98,000 lucrative contract customers last year--while rivals AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless padded their user rolls--in part because Sprint didn't carry the popular smartphone until 2011's final three months. The action by Hesse is the latest sign carriers may be fed up with the high price of the iPhone. Sprint, AT&T and Verizon Wireless have been heavily promoting alternatives to the roughly $600 handset, such as devices from Samsung Electronics Co. (SSNHY, 005930.SE) and Nokia Corp. (NOK, NOK1V.HE). "I do not want, nor does our compensation committee want, to penalize Sprint employees for the company's investment with Apple," said Hesse. Hesse said he agreed to have his paychecks lowered to account for the reduction in his pay to levels from 2010. A spokesman declined to comment beyond the filing. It wasn't immediately clear if other officers would take similar pay reductions. Sprint has activated 3.3 million iPhones in the past two quarters, compared with 11.9 million at AT&T, and 7.5 million a Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group PLC (VOD). -By Greg Bensinger, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-4676; greg.bensinger@dowjones.com

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