Crown Castle has announced that its CEO, Jay Brown, will retire from the company next year.

The tower company revealed that Brown informed them of his decision to step down from the role of CEO earlier this week.

His planned departure comes a week after activist investor Elliott Investment Management issued a statement calling for a shakeup at the firm.

Crown Castle
– Sebastian Moss

Elliott, which manages funds that collectively have an investment of $2 billion in Crown Castle International, was critical of the board and executives at the company.

"The company's strategy, led by CEO Jay Brown since 2016, has been a failure, as demonstrated by the breathtaking magnitude of its underperformance," said Elliott in a damning letter.

"During the tenure of the current executive team, Crown Castle has underperformed its direct peers by an average of 85 percent in total return, which translates into nearly $26 billion of unfulfilled shareholder value."

A permanent successor to Brown, who has been at Crown Castle since 1999, hasn't been named yet.

The board has appointed Anthony Melone as interim CEO from January 16, 2024.

Melone previously served as EVP and chief technology officer for Verizon Communications from December 2010 to April 2015, while spending the decade before at Verizon Wireless. He is currently a member of Crown's board.

“It has been a privilege to lead this outstanding company and be a part of its growth and success for over two decades," Brown said on his departure.

Brown isn't the only CEO to depart a tower company this year. American Tower CEO Tom Bartlett confirmed that he will retire from his positions as president, CEO, and director of the board on February 1, 2024. Steve Vondran has been named as his replacement.

Cellnex founder and chief executive Tobias Martínez also stepped down from his role at the helm of the tower company, doing so in June, and has been replaced by Marco Patuano.

Earlier this year, Crown Castle revealed it was cutting 15 percent of its workforce after dropping $90 million in expected services revenues from its full-year 2023 financial forecast.

Unlike other tower-focused companies such as American Tower and SBA Communications, its CEO Brown has ruled out investing in data centers as part of its future infrastructure portfolio.

A number of rival companies, including American Tower, are developing Edge facilities at cell sites.

Crown Castle previously said it plans to focus on its towers and small cells business. The company has over 40,000 towers, 120,000 small cells on air or under contract to go on air; and around 85,000 route miles of fiber.