Internet service provider EarthLink
Huff's career in communications management has included leading roles at AT&T
Huff walks into his new job with some swagger, spending $750,000 of his own money on EarthLink stock. "I don't put down three quarters of a million dollars trivially," he says, "but I think I'm going to get a great return."
You'd think the guy knows something about investments. Several of his past jobs have included CFO duties -- where he wasn't CEO or president -- and his expertise is in financial planning.
On the other hand, he's known for brash optimism at the start of a new challenge. When he joined Mpower in 1999, the company relocated its headquarters from Las Vegas to New York State just to accommodate him, and the plan was to take the regional business nationwide in "months rather than years."
That never happened. Mpower served only three states when it was sold seven years later. Maybe that's why Huff is tempering his bright outlook with more of a careful approach this time. He says he'll take at least two months to get a fuller understanding of his new business before really doing anything. And: "It's all about execution. At the end of the day, I won't be judged on my plan as much as my execution."
Indeed. EarthLink has ambitious plans for becoming a municipal Wi-Fi powerhouse, and we'll see how far Huff can take the company down that road -- and how fast.
After the initial co-announcement with Google
There's also the Helio mobile phone service, launched in collaboration with South Korean cell network SK Telecom. It's an effort to market the sort of mobile devices that are popular in Korea to a young, affluent American market, using a 3G Network leased from Sprint Nextel
Huff is known for a willingness to cut unprofitable business segments, and he might prune EarthLink a bit two months down the road. Will it be municipal Wi-Fi, or Helios, or maybe the old-school fixed Internet access business? Wait and see.
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