Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

Sticking with New Tampa headquarters, Syniverse's new CEO preps for global growth

Under newly named interim CEO Steve Gray, Syniverse is on the move.

The Tampa company started out tracking international routing so cellphone companies knew how to divvy up phone call and text message charges. Today, it's getting a piece of the action in practically every way that mobile devices connect: video sharing, mobile banking, or social media like LinkedIn.

"We can help connect more people in more ways to do more things than anybody else out there," said Gray, who sat down for an interview Thursday with the Tampa Bay Times. The company is already "a big part" of every carrier's network, hand­ling billions of transactions daily. And it's getting bigger.

But if there's one way Syniverse isn't moving, it's physically.

According to documents filed with the city of Tampa, Syniverse's name was floated as potential anchor tenant for a 202-000-square-foot office building that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik wants to build near the Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa.

However, Gray underscored in no uncertain terms that such a deal isn't happening.

Syniverse plans to stick with its current headquarters in New Tampa's Highwoods Preserve office park where the bulk of its 800 local employees work, along with smaller, leased space on the 30th floor of downtown Tampa's SunTrust Financial Centre.

"I've never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Vinik, but we remain committed to our New Tampa location," Gray said. In fact, despite the looming expiration of its New Tampa lease in October 2016, Syniverse isn't entertaining any corporate relocation within Tampa Bay. "We have no compelling reason to put that in the top 20 things that we need to rethink in the next several months, if not years," he said.

Gray, 56, has spent the past 10 years as operations executive with the giant private equity firm the Carlyle Group, which bought Syniverse for $2.6 billion in cash in 2010 in one of the biggest corporate buyouts in Tampa Bay history.

He also has run companies ranging from 1,000 to 12,000 employees, has a deep history in telecom, and has sat on Syniverse's board since 2011. Those credentials give him an ideal resume to step in as interim CEO after Jeff Gordon stepped down due to personal reasons this month.

Gray, who is receiving a base salary of $60,000 per month during this interim appointment, said he doesn't know how long a search for a new CEO will last. Meanwhile, he's shuttling between Tampa and his home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

He wasted no time getting integrated this week, meeting one-on-one with senior executives and spending Wednesday at the New Tampa center.

Carlyle traditionally is not "hyper-involved in the day-to-day management," he said, and the firm is pleased with Syniverse's financial performance so far. Last quarter, the company had pretax income of nearly $90 million on $277 million in revenue.

Gray predicted no senior management changes, or any major structural or strategic changes. "I like the assets that we have. I think we have the key people we need," he said.

Syniverse will likely focus on digesting a pair of recent large acquisitions, growing more organically in the months ahead than by more mergers.

Today, the company has clients in nearly 200 countries. It has about 2,800 employees in 45 offices worldwide. "We're in six of the seven continents, excluding, obviously, Antarctica," Gray said, adding with a laugh: "The technology and (wireless) global proliferation is a little bit slow to get there."

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