The Art of the Cell

A Conversation With Marcelo Claure

Marcelo Claure

  • Country: Bolivia
  • Title: CEO of Sprint
  • Education: Bentley College

A native of La Paz, Bolivia, Marcelo Claure graduated from Bentley College, in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 1993 with a degree in economics. His first job afterward was with the Bolivian Football Federation. A year later, the Bolivian national soccer team landed a spot in the World Cup, and Claure, back in Massachusetts, landed a partial stake in USA Wireless, which he built into a leading wireless retailer in New England. Three years later, he struck out on his own and founded Brightstar, a Miami-based cell-phone distributor specializing in the Latin American market. By 2013, it was the 55th-largest private company in the United States. Then the Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank took a majority stake in Brightstar, and SoftBank’s founder, Masayoshi Son, installed Claure as CEO of another one of his properties, Sprint. In November, Claure spoke to Foreign Affairs deputy managing editor Stuart Reid at Sprint’s headquarters, in Overland Park, Kansas.

You got one of your first jobs through a chance meeting on an airplane. I was flying back down to Bolivia, just like any other Bolivian student who went to school in the U.S. who’s not allowed to stay. On the plane, I met the newly elected president of the Bolivian Football Federation, and we hit it off. He told me about his project of wanting to take Bolivia to the World Cup, and by the end of the trip, he had offered me a job.

It was the lowest-paying job I would get. But it exposed me to a world that very few other people ever have a chance to see. Going to the World Cup was the biggest entrepreneurial dream that Bolivia has ever had. It was like starting a business from scratch and making it the biggest business in history. And we opened the World Cup back in 1994 in Soldier Field. People always say, “Hey, Marcelo got lucky.” The way I look at it is that entrepreneurs have a higher return on luck than anybody

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