What a long strange trip it’s been.
Sprint Nextel announced today in a SEC filing that it plans to acquire the Clearwire shares owned by Craig McCaw, a move that comes just days after Sprint agreed to sell a 70 percent stake in itself to Softbank.
Sprint’s ownership stake of Clearwire had dropped in recent months to 48 percent. But with the purchase of McCaw’s stake, the wireless carrier will once again have majority control of the Bellevue-based wireless broadband provider. It will own 50.8 percent, according to the filing.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the deal would help “clarify a long-dysfunctional relationship” between Sprint and Clearwire. With the new stake from McCaw’s Eagle River Holdings, Sprint will be able to control the board.
McCaw founded Clearwire in 2004, and resigned from the board in December 2010.
Bloomberg reports that Sprint wanted control of Clearwire in order to be better positioned to utilize its spectrum and wireless assets. The third-largest wireless carrier also recently discussed buying the stakes of Intel and Comcast in Clearwire, but failed to do so. Last week, Bloomberg reported that Sprint does not want to purchase all of Clearwire.
Clearwire shares are down more than six percent in trading today, though they’ve jumped more than 50 percent in the past five days.
UPDATE: It appears not everyone is wild about the idea of Sprint taking a controlling interest in Clearwire. AT&T issued this statement, as reported by The Hill:
“Softbank’s acquisition of Sprint and the control it gains over Clearwire will give one of Japan’s largest wireless companies control of significantly more U.S. wireless spectrum than any other company. We expect that fact and others will be fully explored in the regulatory review process. This is one more example of a very dynamic and competitive U.S. wireless marketplace, which is an important fact for U.S. regulators to recognize.”