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MCI�s top shareholder scores big

MCI's largest shareholder has sold his stake in the company to Verizon for substantially more than the other shareholders will likely get.

Carlos Slim Helu is slick.

The Mexican telecommunications magnate, who is the largest shareholder in MCI, has managed to sell his minority stake in the company to Verizon for a price thatÂ’s 11 percent above what Verizon plans to pay the rest of the companyÂ’s shareholders.

And while everyone else will take their money mostly in stock, Slim will walk away with cash. Verizon also threw in another little perk. In one year, it will give Slim an adjustment based on appreciation of its stock price. In the end the price tag could exceed $27 per share, well above the $23.50 per share being offered to other MCI stockholders.

Not a shabby deal for a guy who bought his stake in MCI on the cheap as it was coming out of bankruptcy.

Over the past two months, Slim has played both sides of the MCI acquisition saga beautifully. By repeatedly stating publicly that VerizonÂ’s offer was too low, he gave legitimacy to QwestÂ’s continued bids for the company and helped pump up VerizonÂ’s offer and MCIÂ’s stock.

ThereÂ’s no doubt that Slim is the big winner out of this whole MCI drama. But what about the other shareholders? The fact that Verizon is willing to pay so much more for some shares versus others has raised some eyebrows. While Verizon eliminated a big obstacle in doing this deal with Slim, it might now have to raise its offer to appease the rest of the shareholders.

The backlash is already mounting. On Saturday after Verizon announced the purchase of SlimÂ’s shares, Bill Miller, CEO of Legg Mason Capital Management, who oversees 5.6 million shares of MCI, blasted the deal in a letter to MCI.

“There can be no reason for the Board to support an offer to MCI owners that is substantially inferior to what Verizon has just agreed to pay for a non-control block of stock,” he said in the statement. “Shareholders would be outraged if the board did less than insist that the identical terms be made available to all other owners."

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this ongoing saga.