SEC filings have provided some interesting context for the recent wireless industry M&A orgy starring Dish, Clearwire and Sprint. According to Clearwire SEC filings
, Dish had been pursuing an acquisition of Clearwire since mid 2011. Those efforts were of course ultimately scuttled by Sprint, who had to do a lot of last-minute wrangling
to keep Dish away from their prized spectrum ambitions.
Clearwire's filings note the company flirted with offers from Sprint, Dish and two other un-named companies over the last year or two as Clearwire's financial situation became less stable. Clearwire received a $2.2 billion spectrum sharing and partnership offer from Dish last August.
The deal appears to have toppled because Dish wanted to ensure the FCC would back off some conditions (that they provide mandatory satellite phone service) affixed to the spectrum they plan to use for an LTE network before
the deal went through. The FCC finally granted the waiver last December
, though they require that Dish builds at least 70% of the new network within six years.
Meanwhile, Sprint SEC filings
suggest that Sprint has been just as flirtatious the last few years, conducting talks with at least four different companies before agreeing to be acquired by Japan's SoftBank. Companies W, X, Y and Z are referenced, but only two have been identified. "Company W" was a failed merger attempt, likely the aborted MetroPCS
merger. "Company Z" was an abandoned spectrum sharing arrangement, likely Dish Network.
Company Y remains unidentified, though Sprint was in talks with that company for a potential merger. It's possible
that T-Mobile was that company -- though it would have been a hard sell for Sprint after lobbying so fiercely against AT&T's acquisition attempt. Company X is also unidentified, and involved Sprint grabbing a significant cache of additional spectrum in exchange for partial ownership of Sprint. It's possible that company X was the cable industry and their SpectrumCO coalition, which instead partnered with Verizon
The filings highlight just a ridiculous few years of flirtations, discussions and deal makings (seriously, get a room) with Dish being the biggest loser of the bunch. Softbank acquired Sprint, Sprint will eventually acquire Clearwire, and T-Mobile merged with MetroPCS. All Charlie Ergen and Dish Network appears to have gotten in the last few months of passionate deal-making is a reputation for being an awful place to work