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Worst of the Week: Sprint to buy T-Mobile US? Yes please!

Hello! And welcome to our Friday column, Worst of the Week. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in this industry, so this column is a chance for us at RCRWireless.com to rant and rave about whatever rubs us the wrong way. We hope you enjoy it!

And without further ado:

The most fantastically horrible rumor again surfaced this week claiming that Sprint was looking at acquiring T-Mobile US in a deal that would combine the nation’s No. 3 and No. 4 operators to form a new No. 3 operator. (Now, that’s what I call progress.)

For those with short memories … wait, what was I talking about … this rumor made the rounds back in early 2011 when reports surfaced that the two parties were looking at a corporate hook up. Since then, much has happened for both as T-Mobile US picked up MetroPCS, raised billions of dollars and has become the turn-around darling for the space; while Sprint was bought by Softbank, bought Clearwire and has seen its troubled operational results continue.

The latest version of the rumor, which came from well-respected outlets citing the always reliable un-named “sources” close to the deal, indicate that emboldened with new funds and fresh memory loss from majority owner Softbank, Sprint is looking to acquire Deutsche Telekom’s approximately 75% stake in T-Mobile US for some untold billions of dollars. As snickered at earlier, the deal would boost Sprint from being a distant No. 3 carrier to being a very heady No. 3 carrier.

As pointed out by many, the proposed deal has a substantial number of hurdles in the way, but then again what’s something involving Sprint without a bunch of hurdles in the way.

Not that I ever want to forget, but it seems Sprint may have forgotten the last time it went looking for market share through the acquisition of a smaller rival. Sure, T-Mobile US’ current operations are much closer to the synergy mess Sprint ran into trying to integrate Nextel’s iDEN network and enterprise-focused operations, but you would think that after going through what Sprint went through in buying Nextel – wavering on what to do with Nextel, giving away a bunch of spectrum assets acquired from Nextel only to then buy them back, writing off the value of the Nextel deal, scaring off many of the Nextel customers and finally shuttering the Nextel operations – Sprint might be a little nervous to even look down that road again.

Of course, Sprint has done a pretty good job in using its ongoing integration issues related to mergers and acquisitions and network upgrades as an explanation to investors as to why it continues to struggle operationally.

And not to continue trying to compare Nextel with T-Mobile US, but if memory serves, Nextel was rolling along pretty well before Sprint put in that $35 billion bid (still can’t get over that amount) to acquire a carrier that had just 18 million customers tied to a network that was better served directing taxi traffic.

Of course, another reason for Sprint to avoid trying to purchase anything at this point beyond perhaps a Big Gulp at the local 7-Eleven is that Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen still has money in his bank account. Along with the rumor of Sprint looking to purchase T-Mobile US, Ergen is also looking at making a play for T-Mobile US, which would pit Sprint and Ergen in yet another battle between billionaire’s that will likely end with Sprint having to fork over more billions of dollars. Not sure what the stalking laws are in regards to corporations, but it may be something Sprint should look into.

I guess one upside to an unlikely Sprint/T-Mobile US deal would be to see which CEO would win out. While precedent would dictate that the acquiring company (Sprint/Softbank) would place their CEO in charge, would you really want to get rid of John Legere? That man is awesome. Don’t get me wrong, Dan Hesse was awesome at one point as well. But, ever since Legere has Chris Farley’d his way onto the scene, Hesse is looking a little to corporate.

And of course there is also talk of Sprint looking to move its headquarters from Overland Park, Kan., to the cozy confines of Silicon Valley, in a move reported to be at the urging of its Softbank overlords. This of course after Sprint had previously moved some of its corporate headquarters to Reston, Va., following the Nextel deal only to move them back to Overland Park once Hesse stepped back into play. Nothing says we are a stable operation and want our employees to be happy like always moving your corporate headquarters.

Truth be told, I do hope that Sprint puts in a bid for T-Mobile US as such a transaction is ripe with so many good story opportunities that would keep me busy until the cows come home. So I say “go for it, Sprint!” Why stop to let things settle down when doing so will remove any excuse as to why things are not going so well.

OK, enough of that.
Thanks for checking out this week’s Worst of the Week column. And now for some extras:

–It looks like Leap’s acquisition by AT&T can’t come soon enough for at least one Leap retailer. Word out of Oregon is that the manager of a Cricket location in Beaverton took one for the team as a disgruntled customer did not want to pay a re-stocking fee for a returned device. When told about the 15% charge, said customer went “America’s Funniest Videos” on the manager, though without the usual canned laughter from the studio audience.

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