Internet phone service Vonage (VG) has named Marc Lefar its new chief executive. Lefar replaces founder Jeffrey Citron, who took the interim CEO role last April as Vonage suffered through growing pains and patent wars with telcos like Verizon (VZ) and Sprint (S).
Lefar was previously Chief Marketing Officer for Cingular Wireless, now AT&T Mobility (T). Vonage shares are up 6.4% to $1.50 in after-hours trading.
His big challenge: Keeping Vonage relevant in an Internet phone market now dominated by cable companies like Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC) — and a broader telecom market where more households are ditching home phone service for their mobile phones.
Two recent moves that could help: Up to $215 million in private debt refinancing, and a new service that lets you use your Vonage service — and home phone number — on any PC.
We had a chance to chat with Lefar for a few minutes. As expected, he’ll be spending the first few months in learning mode — figuring out what works, what doesn’t, etc.
Some of his goals: Making Vonage “elegantly simple” and focusing on the customer experience. Easy to say, but few companies have figured this out. And it’ll take a year or so to grade. But we’d argue that he’s had some good training — Cingular had a clean, simple brand that made sense, and was very popular before AT&T swallowed it up.
Note: Lefar hasn’t yet decided if the Vonage jingle will stay or go. We hope it’s history.