Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sprint Quietly Gains Control of Clearwire

Sprint Nextel Corp.will gain control of Clearwire Corp. without an acquisition, the Wall Street Journal predicted, and so it has happened.

Sprint will pay Eagle River Holdings LLC, the investment firm owned by McCaw, about $100 million for 30.9 million of Clearwire’s Class A shares, or 4.5 percent of the total, and 2.73 million of its Class B stock, according to a regulatory filling today. McCaw, who co-founded Clearwire, retired as chairman of the company two years ago.

Sprint, which already held 48 percent of Clearwire, thereby would own fully 52.5 percent of the class A shares.

By doing so, Sprint which already owns a 48 percent stake, will gain control of Clearwire without having to acquire all of the company.

You might say that ends any immediate speculation about any potential rival Clearwire acquisition with a whimper, not a bang. To be sure, Sprint has not had any particular interest in buying all of Clearwire in the past. But that has changed, apparently, with the SoftBank purchase of 70 percent of Sprint.

The move will make sense for observers who assumed Softbank would want clear control of Clearwire as part of its purchase of 70 percent of Sprint. Most observers think SoftBank wanted control of the Clearwire spectrum assets. 

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