Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) set the stage for the $130 billion buyout of Vodafone Group Plc (VOD)’s stake in their U.S. venture two years ago, when it named a new chief executive officer: Lowell McAdam, a 20-year veteran of the wireless industry with long-standing ties to Europe.

Executives at Verizon had been haggling to seal the deal for a decade, rebuffed by Vodafone counterparts who balked at parting with their share of the most profitable U.S. wireless carrier. Vodafone’s top brass also clashed with Verizon’s then-CEO, Ivan Seidenberg, a former cable splicer from the Bronx whose brusque manner failed to win over the Europeans.

Enter McAdam, a soft-spoken Ivy League-educated engineer who had worked with Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao since the 1990s. From the start, McAdam vowed to make expanding the wireless business his top priority. He adopted a more collaborative relationship with suppliers, such as mobile-phone makers. His demeanor, familiarity with Vodafone executives and willingness to pony up cash reinvigorated the talks.