Sky Dayton, the founder and chief executive of Helio, is stepping down as CEO
to become chairman of the youthoriented cellphone provider.
Dayton, who also founded the Internet service provider EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK)
, will be replaced at Helio by Wonhee Sull, formerly the companys president and
chief operating officer.
A Taste of Korea
Helio is a joint venture of EarthLink and South Korean phone company SK Telecom,
and is an attempt to bring the highend handsets and sophisticated data
applications that are popular in Korea to a U.S. audience.
As chairman, Dayton replaces Jinwoo So, president of global business at SK
Telecom. Sull comes from the research and design side of the phone company.
"Helio has reached a point in its development where I feel the timing is right
for this change ... As we have for the past three years, the two of us will
continue to define Helios direction and future," Dayton said Monday in a
Dayton "loves to start things, build teams and brands" and then turn over
daytoday management to others, said Helio spokesperson Brooke Hammerling.
Dayton also founded Boingo Wireless , and remains chairman of the company. It
sells access to WiFi hotspots in public areas.
Helio, which launched in May 2006, said it now has "nearly" 200,000 subscribers,
who pay an average of more than US$85 a month. Thats higher than the industry
average, but Helio has still contributed to losses at EarthLink.
SK Telecom said last year it decided to invest an additional $270 million in
Helio, cutting EarthLinks ownership share to about 22 percent.
Helio is operating with a business model thats proved very difficult for other
companies. It doesnt have its own cellular towers. Instead, it buys wholesale
access to Sprint Nextels (NYSE: S) highspeed network, making it a socalled
mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO.
A number of other companies have used the MVNO business model, and success
stories are few. Ampd Mobile, ESPN Mobile and Disney Mobile have all shut down.
Virgin Mobile USA is doing better, but its far larger than Helio, with more
than 4.8 million subscribers.
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