By Tom Hals
NEW YORK Jan 10 A Delaware judge refused to
fast-track a shareholder class action lawsuit seeking to block
Sprint Nextel Corp's deal to buy wireless service company
Clearwire Corp, the investor leading the lawsuit said
The lawsuit by Crest Financial Ltd, Clearwire's largest
shareholder after Sprint, accuses Clearwire's board of accepting
a low-ball offer of $2.97 a share. Crest's general counsel said
last week he hoped for a full trial in April to try to stop the
At a hearing on Thursday, which was closed to the public,
Crest asked Delaware Court of Chancery Judge Leo Strine to
approve a motion to expedite and to put the case on a schedule
for a full trial in the coming months.
Strine denied that motion, but did so with leave for Crest
to renew its motion, Crest said. He also left the door open for
Crest to pursue damages against Clearwire's board if Crest can
prove they breached their duties to shareholders.
"We're encouraged that the court recognized the seriousness
and validity of our lawsuit. Crest intends to press forward and
seek the significant damages that Clearwire's minority
shareholders will suffer because of Sprint's grossly inadequate
and coercive offer," Crest said in a statement.
Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat said his company was pleased
with the decision. A Clearwire spokesman declined to comment.
Shareholder lawsuits such as Crest's generally do not get to
a trial sooner than eight months or a year.
The Court of Chancery in Delaware, where a majority of large
U.S. businesses are incorporated, is a busy venue for disputes
over merger deals. The court's judges have been reluctant to
block takeovers, preferring instead to give shareholders the
opportunity to vote on an offer.
On Tuesday, pay TV company Dish Network Corp topped
Sprint's offer with its own, at $3.30 per share. Crest said it
was looking forward to getting details about Dish's offer.