Sprint shareholders approve SoftBank acquisition

Japan's SoftBank is a step closer to acquiring the third largest wireless operator in the U.S., as 98 percent of Sprint shareholders OK the merger.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

The fight for ownership of Sprint Nextel is drawing to a close, as Sprint shareholders overwhelmingly voted to approve an offer from Japan's SoftBank to buy the company.

Approximately 98 percent of the votes cast on Tuesday supported SoftBank's offer. The deal must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. But Softbank said it believes the deal should close in early July.

"Today is a historic day for our company, and I want to thank our shareholders for approving this transformative merger agreement," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement. "The transaction with SoftBank should enhance Sprint's long-term value and competitive position by creating a company with greater financial flexibility."

Sprint has been in talks with SoftBank since October. At the time, SoftBank's offer totaled $20.1 billion. But as the companies neared a shareholder vote on the deal, satellite TV provider Dish Network came in with a surprise counteroffer of $25.5 billion. Since then the companies have been vying for control of Sprint.

In early June, SoftBank raised its offer to $21.6 billion.

Meanwhile, Dish has also made an unsolicited bid to acquire Clearwire, a carrier that is majority-owned by Sprint. Sprint had announced in December that it planned to buy the remaining shares of Clearwire and combine its network and spectrum assets with its own.

Sprint and Clearwire have been going back and forth in their pursuit of Clearwire. Sprint raised its offer, which was then countered by Dish. Sprint is suing Dish in Delaware for violating state law. Meanwhile, Sprint has also increased its bid for Clearwire yet again, and Clearwire's board of directors is now recommending that shareholders accept the Sprint offer.

As the fight rages on for Clearwire, Dish said earlier this week that it has abandoned its efforts to fight SoftBank for control of Sprint. Instead, it plans to focus on the Clearwire acquisition. In a regulatory filing Friday, the company confirmed that it is walking away from its takeover efforts and said that it would redeem several senior notes because it no longer needed the funds for an acquisition.

Updated 9:08 a.m. PT:This story has been updated with additional background information.