Verizon taps Hans Vestberg as chief executive

John Stratton Verizon

Vestberg's rise is a clear indication that Verizon, the biggest US wireless carrier, is prioritizing its network as it tries to take the lead in the race for faster networks known as 5G. McAdam, 64, will serve as executive chairman through his retirement at the end of the year, at which time he will become non-executive chairman.

Vestberg, who joined Verizon (VZ) in April 2017 after a seven-year stint as the CEO Ericsson (ERIC), will take over for current Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam on August 1.

Verizon has also been touting its upcoming 5G network, which promises to bring faster data speeds to businesses and consumers.

"I strongly believe in the power of change to drive long-term growth and innovation", McAdam said in a company release announcing the news.

"Effective immediately, Stratton will step down from his current role and will support a smooth transition as a strategic adviser reporting to Lowell McAdam", Verizon said in a statement Friday.

Verizon's stock has grown about 35% in McAdam's tenure according to the Wall Street Journal, better that AT&T. Lars Soderfjell, a portfolio manager at Finnish bank Alandsbanken, which owns Ericsson shares, said Vestberg pushed to expand the company's services unit, which included managing networks for mobile operators.

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Stratton, 57, has served Verizon and its predecessor, Bell Atlantic Mobile, for more than 25 years, holding various executive-level positions.

Under McAdam's leadership as CEO, Verizon took over complete ownership of Verizon Wireless in 2014 through a $130 billion purchase of Vodafone's 45 percent stake in the company. Verizon's says it has returned more than $54 billion to shareholders in cash dividends since 2011.

He also led efforts to buy faded internet stars AOL and Yahoo to create a digital media operation within the firm, under the brand known as Oath.

Just two years ago, Vestberg was CEO of Ericsson as the vendor struggled to cut costs in the face of declining demand for its LTE infrastructure.

Vestberg has been in charge of Verizon's 5G initiatives, as well as its growing fiber network.