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Old 06-24-2006, 12:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default [2006-06-24] Nextel Partners sale near, but view is, "Why tinker?"

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Nextel Partners sale near, but view is, "Why tinker?"

By Tricia Duryee
Seattle Times technology reporter

With its long-awaited sale to Sprint Nextel expected to close Monday, Nextel Partners is saying no big change is coming to the Kirkland-based company.

Nextel Partners Chief Executive John Chapple, who helped start the company almost nine years ago, said he would outline his thoughts today in a letter sent to all employees. The message, he said, would be that Sprint Nextel is not expecting to make many shifts as a result of the deal, which received final approval Tuesday from the Federal Communications Commission.

For the company's 3,000 U.S. employees, including 60 in Kirkland, "the approach in most respects is business as usual," Chapple said. "In all markets, and in Kirkland, people will continue in their roles working with their fellow Sprint brethren."

Few changes will be made because of Nextel Partners' success at providing service in small, rural areas, he said. "Why tinker with that construct in the near term? That's the current mind-set," Chapple said.

A spokesman for Sprint Nextel, based in Reston, Va., declined to comment.

The purchase of Nextel Partners follows the merger between Sprint and Nextel Communications in August. Since then, Sprint Nextel has acquired several Sprint affiliates, which served specific geographies. Nextel Partners, which has 2.1 million subscribers, was Nextel Communications' only affiliate and the largest of all the affiliates of the combined companies. In 2005, the company had sales of $1.8 billion and a profit of $605.4 million.

Chapple said the only people immediately affected by the merger are the company's top leaders, including himself.

Chapple said despite the number of opportunities he sees in the wireless industry today, he doesn't expect to take another job. Instead, he will focus on his family and serve on a number of boards, including those of nonprofits.

The other executives leaving are Barry Rowan, chief financial officer; David Aas, chief technical officer; and Donald Manning, general counsel. Chapple said they have plans similar to his own.

"The other folks I've mentioned are looking at various opportunities, but also, interestingly, they aren't out interviewing for traditional executive roles," he said. "I think they are like-minded and having a philosophy of giving back to the community. That's what we are all talking about; we feel blessed."

The company has come a long way since Craig McCaw, who was spending millions to rebuild Nextel Communications, asked Chapple to start an affiliate from scratch. The idea for Nextel Partners was to serve less-populated areas that Nextel couldn't support financially.

Chapple, who had worked at McCaw Cellular Communications before McCaw sold it to AT&T in 1994, took charge. As part of the deal, he negotiated a joint-venture agreement that stipulated if Nextel Communications were ever sold, Nextel Partners' shareholders could force the acquiring company to buy their shares at a competitive price.

In December, Sprint Nextel and Nextel Partners announced the purchase price, $28.50 a share, making the company worth almost $9 billion.

Based on his employment agreement, Chapple could get up to $3.3 million, or the equivalent of three years' salary, in severance. Also, when the deal was announced, he was expected to get $57 million more from the stock he owns, not including options.

Last edited by jibi : 06-28-2006 at 07:52 PM.
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