* Bid for Clearwire is genuine, despite speculation - Ergen
* Says needs a partner for wireless
By Ronald Grover and Liana B. Baker
DANA POINT, Calif., Feb 11 Dish Network Corp
Chairman Charlie Ergen dismissed speculation his
surprise $2.3 billion bid for Clearwire Corp was
"illusory," saying that he wanted a stake in the wireless
company and that rival bidder Sprint Nextel would have to
work to fend off Dish.
Last month, Dish announced it had made an offer of $3.30 per
share for Clearwire, which had already agreed to sell itself to
majority owner Sprint for $2.97 per share. A special committee
on the Clearwire board is now reviewing the offer.
The 59-year-old Ergen told the AllThingsDigital "Dive into
Media" conference on Monday that he fully intended to go through
with the bid. Addressing speculation about his plans for some $3
billion in purchased wireless spectrum, he explained he did not
intend to sell it.
"Sprint will have to do something different than they are
doing today to keep us out," the hard-charging, outspoken
billionaire told an audience of media industry professionals and
Analysts say Sprint - which had earlier agreed to sell 70
percent of its shares to Japan's SoftBank Corp for $20
billion - may have to raise its bid to thwart Ergen.
Dish has not explained why it bid for Clearwire. While some
analysts speculate it may simply be hoping to gain leverage in
talks with Sprint about a network partnership, others suggest it
wants Clearwire's spectrum.
Ergen told Reuters on Jan. 7 that he wanted to get into the
wireless broadband market, but that it could take months for the
company to finalize its wireless plans because of some remaining
regulatory issues and wireless market consolidation.
On Monday, he told the conference he was looking for a
partner for his future wireless venture.
"We want to compete against the cable guys and the mobile
and to do it inside and outside the house." he said. "Apple or
Google, those guys could just go out and buy what they needed.
Compared to them, we're on food stamps."
Ergen acknowledged that, if he is thwarted in his bid to
find a partner, he might have to sell the spectrum he already
owns, "but we have plan B, C, D, E and F," too.
Ergen has raised eyebrows in the past few years by making
acquisitions that do not seem core to his company's assets,
which are concentrated heavily in pay TV. He founded Dish
Network in 1980 as part of a company then called EchoStar, after
selling satellite dishes from the back of a truck with his wife,
He is one of the country's richest people with a net worth
of at least $9 billion. After telling investors on conference
calls for the past year that the pay TV industry had matured, he
sought to diversify and bought video chain Blockbuster and
companies with wireless spectrum, such as DBSD and TerreStar in