Sprint’s attempt to buyout Clearwire creates more uncertainty for the wireless industry in Puget Sound, but there could be a chance to make lemonade here.
Thousands of jobs were in limbo last year when AT&T attempted to buy Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA.
Hundreds more are in limbo at Clearwire, which has long been seen as an acquisition target. The company now employs about 400 people in the Puget Sound region and 1,053 nationally.
Both Sprint and Clearwire declined to say what that could mean for Clearwire employees and its headquarters in Bellevue.
Instead of shuttering the place, perhaps Sprint should consider moving its headquarters from Kansas City to Bellevue. Or at least maintain Clearwire as a satellite headquarters and engineering office.
Companies around the world are coming to the Seattle area to set up offices and tap the region’s large pool of technical talent. The competitive job market could make it difficult for Sprint to retain Clearwire employees if it’s going to relocate them to its headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., near Kansas City.
The Seattle area is also a convenient midpoint between Kansas City and Tokyo, where Sprint’s new corporate owner, Softbank, is located. Imagine the savings that could be realized if executives from Sprint and Softbank could meet at a Seattle headquarters.
There may also be an emotional case to be made for Sprint maintaining Clearwire’s presence in the area.
Top Sprint executives have deep local connections. Chief Executive Dan Hesse and Steve Elfman, president of Sprint’s network operations, both worked together here at AT&T Wireless and other local companies earlier in their careers.
Elfman maintains a home in Redmond and a summer place in the San Juans.
Sprint also made a huge bet on the iPhone, making it the centerpiece of its transition to 4G LTE technology, and Seattle’s in the same time zone as Cupertino, Calif.