In the seemingly never-ending saga of who will buy Clearwire, it's been a dogfight between Sprint and Dish Networks (which is also a suitor for Sprint itself). On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that Clearwire's board put its support behind Dish's most recent offer of $4.40 per share, instead of taking Sprint's lower $3.40 per share bid. Sprint, which already owns more than half of Clearwire, has a standing agreement in place to purchase the remainder of the company. A shareholder vote on Sprint's offer was scheduled for tomorrow, but the board has postponed that to June 24th. Clearwire's board wants shareholders to vote against Sprint's offer and approve Dish's, which is now on the table until July 2nd.
While Dish's offer is significantly higher than Sprint's, it may be in Sprint's best interest to attempt to curry favor with Clearwire, as Sprint itself is also on the auction block. Sprint already has access to Clearwire's vast troves of spectrum, which has made the third-place carrier appealing to both Japan's SoftBank and Dish itself. Dish's interest in Clearwire (and Sprint) stems from its long running efforts to launch a terrestrial LTE network, and any spectrum it can gather for it would help those efforts. Sprint has already cut off deal negotiations with Dish and accepted a larger buyout offer from Softbank, giving DIsh until June 18th to make a best and final offer.
Either way, it doesn't look like this soap opera is ending anytime soon, since any purchase offers accepted by Clearwire or Sprint have to go through regulatory approvals before it can actually close. Grab your popcorn and an extra large cup of soda, this is going to take a while.
Update: Sprint has issued a statement in response to the recommendation from Clearwire's board. We've reproduced it below.
"Sprint is evaluating today's statement from Clearwire's Board and will review any corresponding filings before determining its next steps. Sprint continues to have every intention of enforcing its governance rights. All commercial agreements, including network and customer agreements, will be honored and enforced as it regards our ongoing relationship with Clearwire."