Sprint Nextel yesterday named Dan Hesse, former chairman and CEO of local wireline carrier Embarq, as its president and CEO, ending the company’s two-month search for a successor to Gary Forsee.

Hesse is not new to Sprint, having headed the company’s local wireline division before it was spun off as Embarq in May 2006 in the wake of Sprint’s merger with Nextel Communications. Perhaps more importantly, Hesse is familiar with the wireless industry after serving as president and CEO of AT&T Wireless from 1997 to 2000, when AT&T Wireless was the largest U.S. cellular carrier.

“Dan Hesse is the right person to lead our company,” Irvine O. Hockaday Jr., chairman of Sprint’s CEO search committee, said in a statement. “He is a proven leader with deep wireless experience as a chief executive and an established track record of generating strong operating performance.”

Hesse’s tenure at AT&T Wireless-before the company was spun off and eventually sold to Cingular Wireless, which adopted the AT&T name-was exemplary, said Roger Entner, senior vice president of communications for IAG Research.

“Dan Hesse is a really sharp guy with a terrific track record in wireless-if AT&T had left him in charge when they spun it off as an independent company, the wireless industry would look very different today,” Entner said. “He did a tremendous job at AT&T Wireless-it was the largest carrier at that time, grew revenues quickly and did innovative stuff.”

In a statement, Hesse said he is “honored and excited” to lead Sprint Nextel.

“There is no company in the wireless industry with a stronger set of assets,” Hesse said. “I believe, through solid execution and commitment to our customers, we can reinvigorate our operating performance and return the company to a growth trajectory.”