Dish chairman slams SoftBank over Sprint takeover comments

Charlie Ergen says Dish is offering a higher price and an "American company" with "employees who speak English."

Dish founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen Screentshot by Dan Farber/CNET

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen is ratcheting up the war of words with SoftBank over who is the better suitor for Sprint Nextel.

After SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son referred to Dish's unsolicited $25.5 billion bid to buy Sprint from under the Japanese carrier as "incomplete and illusory," Ergen reiterated earlier arguments that a U.S. buyer would be best for the troubled wireless carrier.

"We're offering a higher price. That's just math," he told USA Today on Wednesday. "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."

Dish submitted a bid to buy Sprint last month for $25.5 billion, a deal that it said breaks down to $7 a share, superior to the $6.22 a share that SoftBank has offered. Sprint said Monday that it had received approval from SoftBank to further explore Dish's offer.

Ergen's comments echo a Dish filing last month with the Federal Communications Commission that claimed a SoftBank acquisition of Sprint wouldn't be good for U.S. national security . Dish's filing said SoftBank didn't have the "existing in-market infrastructure" and that "Dish's merger proposal is better for American consumers, better for Sprint shareholders, and better for national security than the SoftBank proposal."

SoftBank launched its bid to acquire Sprint last October, offering to pay shareholders $12.1 billion and give the carrier $8 billion in cash for network upgrades and other improvements in exchange for a 70 percent stake in the company. Dish threw a wrench in SoftBank's plans by offering $17.3 billion in cash and $8.2 billion in stock.

Sprint became an attractive acquisition target for Dish in December when Sprint agreed to a $2.2 billion deal to acquire the shares of network company Clearwire that it doesn't already own in order to boost its spectrum assets as it continues its 4G LTE rollout. Clearwire, which provides 4G services to carriers and consumers in select markets, controls wireless spectrum that could be valuable to Dish, which recently won approval from the Federal Communications Commission to build its own LTE network .

(Editors' note: CBS, which owns CNET, is in active litigation against Dish over its Hopper digital video recorder.)

 

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