PRESIDENT AND CEO, MID-ATLANTIC BROADBAND COMMUNITIES CORP., SOUTH BOSTON
Deriso is the proverbial big fish in the small pond of South Boston, where MBC has made significant headway in connecting Southern Virginia to broadband internet service, working with Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Virginia Tech, among others. Founded in 2004, MBC owns and operates more than 1,900 miles of open-access fiber lines in 31 counties, which has helped promote investment in the region.
Deriso also has partnered with Microsoft Corp., which has launched its TechSpark Virginia initiative in South Boston and will occupy the new SOVA Innovation Hub, set to open this summer. MBC will move its 20-person operation to the new building too, and a new SOVA Tech Hub will be next door, providing space for technology-focused startups by 2021.
A Georgia State University graduate, Deriso has served on the board of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and previously worked in the rural telecom and electric utility industries across the country. He also is a graduate of the University of Virginia’s Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership Southside Leaders Program.
MATTHEW J. DESCH
CEO, IRIDIUM COMMUNICATIONS INC., MCLEAN
Desch has served as CEO of Iridium and its predecessor, Iridium Holdings LLC, since 2006, after decades of leadership in the telecommunications industry, including at Telcordia Technologies and Nortel Networks Corp. Iridium brought in
$560 million in revenue in 2019.
Desch serves on the president’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee and on the board of Unisys Corp. He is the only person to be named Via Satellite magazine’s Satellite Executive of the Year twice. He also founded the Buckeye Leadership Fellows program at Ohio State and is a pilot for Angel Flight, a group that provides free patient transportation to distant hospitals.
EDUCATION: Ohio State University (B.S.) and University of Chicago (MBA)
WHAT WOULD A COMPETITOR SAY ABOUT YOU? “Nice guy. Just wish he’d change careers.”
FIRST JOB: Golf caddy at Dayton (Ohio) Country Club
FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM: THE Ohio State University Buckeyes
MOST RECENT BOOK READ: “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
CHRISTOPHER E. FRENCH
PRESIDENT AND CEO, SHENANDOAH TELECOMMUNICATIONS CO. (SHENTEL), EDINBURG
Broadband hasn’t come easy to some parts of Virginia. Shentel, founded in 1902, has been one of the companies tackling those challenges.
French, who’s been on Shentel’s board of directors for almost 25 years, was named president and CEO in 1988. He leads one of a handful of publicly traded companies that call the Shenandoah Valley their home.
Shentel provides broadband and telecom services through wireless, cable and fiber optic networks,and is a Sprint affiliate in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky and Ohio.
Shentel serves 1.13 million wireless customers, including prepaid, and has attributed slight revenue growth in 2019 to its broadband growth, which it said offset a decline from wireless. The company also launched residential fiber optic service in Harrisonburg with its new Glo Fiber and also expanded into eastern Kentucky with the acquisition of Big Sandy Broadband.
French, who has a bachelor’s degree and MBA from the University of Virginia, has been president of the Virginia Telecommunications Industry Association and was appointed to the USTelecom Association board in January 2018.
J.D. MYERS II
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND REGION MANAGER OF VIRGINIA OPERATIONS, COX COMMUNICATIONS INC., CHESAPEAKE
Myers joined Cox Communications’ Virginia and North Carolina operations in 2018, overseeing more than 2,400 Virginia-based employees for the cable company, which employs 55,000 people worldwide. He also served as Cox’s market leader in Northern Virginia and as vice president of Cox Business. A former Army officer who grew up in a military family, Myers is a prominent civic figure in Hampton Roads, as a board member for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, the GO Virginia Region 5 Council and the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters’ mental health campaign cabinet.
EDUCATION: American University (B.A., dual master’s degrees) and Regis University (associate degree)
FIRST JOB: Rustler Steak House, where I was selected to go to chef school as a teenager. And I can cook a mean steak!
BEVERAGE OF CHOICE: Muscle Milk. I don’t go anywhere without it.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU’D CHANGE ABOUT VIRGINIA? I’d change how we approach our past to pave a better way for the future. No, the past of our commonwealth isn’t pretty but we can’t change it. What we can do is learn from the past to change our future. I’d say the time is right. The appetite is here. Where do we start? How about taking a look at C-suites across Virginia? Are they representative of our beautifully, richly diverse commonwealth? I’d suggest they aren’t. We can start by supporting our minority-owned businesses and lifting them up. But beyond that, let’s prepare the pipeline of tomorrow’s leaders through mentorships and engagement to ensure a representation of our diverse Virginia community in the C-suites of Virginia’s top businesses.
CEO, INTELSAT CORP., MCLEAN
A veteran of the telecommunications and satellite industries, Spengler oversees the world’s second-largest satellite services provider, which filed for bankruptcy in May to ease its $15 billion debt load and be part of an FCC spectrum-clearing program that could earn the company $4.87 billion.
Spengler joined Intelsat in 2003, serving in roles in sales, marketing and development. He was named CEO in 2015. Prior to his time at Intelsat, he held senior management positions at ViaSat Satellite Networks, Scientific-Atlanta Europe, GTE Spacenet International and GTE Corp.
At Intelsat, Spengler has led development of Intelsat’s next-generation network applications, the $2 billion EpicNG satellite network and the establishment of the C-Band Alliance (CBA), a consortium of satellite operators. In February, Intelsat withdrew from the CBA and, in July, fleet operator SES sued Intelsat for $1.8 billion in damages, claiming that Intelsat reneged on an agreement to evenly split with SES $9.7 billion in spectrum-auctioning proceeds that the CBA was going to collect.
A graduate of Dickinson College with an MBA from Boston University, he is a member of the United Nations’ Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and sits on the board of Kymeta Corp.
H. BRIAN THOMPSON
FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, GTT COMMUNICATIONS INC., MCLEAN
An international telecommunications industry leader, Thompson founded GTT Communications, which provides high-speed internet and cloud networking services to more than 144 countries.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts and earning his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1968, he began a career mostly in telecommunications — and wrote the book on it in 2013: “The Red Thread: My Fortunate Life in Telecommunications.”
GTT is currently undergoing a leadership transition. A search is underway to replace CEO Richard D. Calder Jr., who stepped down this year.
The company brought in $1.73 billion in revenue in 2019 and manages more than 200,000 client devices. At the end of 2019, GTT announced the acquisition of KPN International, a Dutch telecom and IT provider, for $55.4 million.
Thompson also heads his own private equity investment and advisory firm, Vienna-based Universal Telecommunications Inc. In the 1990s,
he co-chaired a multinational commission to chart the role of the private sector in developing telecommunications infrastructure.
He has served on the boards of the Lab School of Washington, the St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School Foundation and Penske Automotive Group Inc.