It's Dish's Ergen vs. SoftBank's Son in a war of words over Sprint

Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) Chairman Charlie Ergen blasted comments by SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son as a "personal attack," and he reasserted that Dish's $25.5 billion bid to take control of Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) would be better for the United States.

Dish Charlie Ergen


"We're offering a higher price. That's just math," Ergen said in an interview with USA Today, which essentially was a response to comments Son made to media and investors about the superiority of SoftBank's bid for Sprint. "We are an American company, and the modernization of Sprint's network will have to be done from the U.S. You have to climb the towers here, and you'll have to have U.S. employees who speak English. Operations command control will be in America. That's good for jobs. It doesn't mean that the other guys are bad. It's just that we have an advantage."

Ergen's argument echoes one Dish made in a recent FCC filing, in which it asserted that its bid for Sprint "is better for the American consumer, better for Sprint's shareholders, and better for U.S. national security than the SoftBank proposal." SoftBank is offering $20.1 billion for 70 percent of Sprint.

Earlier this week Son called Dish's offer "incomplete and illusory," said Dish's deal would "not provide any new cash into the company, and it provides heavy burden of debt," and that "(Ergen) himself admits he's an amateur to our mobile industry." Son said he is confident SoftBank will prevail and that it does not need to raise its bid.

Ergen pointed out in the USA Today interview that Dish has grown without previous experience in the satellite business, just as SoftBank has grown from a technology investor into Japan's No. 3 mobile operator. "I was disappointed by the conference. It was more (about) personal attack and personality than it was about business," Ergen said. "It's insulting to managers of Sprint to say that the only team that knows how to build a network is in Japan."

Ergen has said a combined Dish and Sprint will be able to deliver video and high-speed broadband to consumers both at home and on mobile devices.

While Ergen harped on the fact that Japanese corporate culture is "materially different" than that of Sprint, and that "we're more culturally and geographically aligned with Sprint," he conceded that numbers and money would decide the deals' fate.

"This is a bidding war. Committee (executives) at Sprint don't need (me) to lecture them on math," Ergen said. "That's the way capitalism works in the U.S."

After questions were raised about Ergen's comments in the interview, Dish issued a statement that said, according to Reuters: "While we hold SoftBank's management capabilities in high regard, we believe there are benefits to managing and operating Dish Sprint domestically."

Sprint has tentatively set June 12 as the day for a special shareholder meeting for a vote on the SoftBank deal.

In related news, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved of SoftBank's plan to buy 70 percent of Sprint, paying the way for the June 12 vote on the deal.

For more:
- see this USA Today article
- see this Phone Scoop article
- see this Reuters article

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