A published report Friday said Sprint’s chairman Masayoshi Son chatted with investment guru Warren Buffett about taking part in some kind of deal with the Overland Park-based wireless carrier.
The Wall Street Journal’s brief post was based on people it said were familiar with the situation, but it did not name them.
According to those people, Son and Buffett had talked during an annual gathering of CEOs this week in Sun Valley, Idaho. Son is founder and CEO of Tokyo-based SoftBank Group Corp., which owns more than 80 percent of Sprint. Buffett is CEO of Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which owns many businesses including railway BNSF and jeweler Helzberg’s Diamonds.
Sprint would make for an unlikely Buffett investment.
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“One of Warren’s requirements is that the company is profitable and successful,” said telecom analyst Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. “Sprint is not profitable.”
Moreover, Buffett has failed to develop an interest even in Sprint’s profitable rivals, Verizon and AT&T, Entner said.
“He has never bought anything in telecom,” he said.
Buffett famously dodged the dot-com bubble and subsequent bust, saying he didn’t understand those companies and so didn’t invest in them.
Son has been public about his exploration of many possible paths for Sprint’s future. Sprint could be a buyer or a seller, or could merge with another company, and seek relationships beyond a widely speculated merger with rival T-Mobile.
The Journal previously reported that Sprint had broken off talks with T-Mobile to allow for exclusive talks with cable giants Comcast and Charter Communications, though that report has remained unconfirmed. The exclusive period was reported to extend into late July, the Journal had said.
“Sprint is supposed to be talking exclusively with the cable companies,” said Berge Ayvazian, an industry consultant at Wireless20/20, who expressed doubts that Sprint was part of the chat.
Ayvazian said Son and Buffett likely were talking, but he said there are many other topics they could have discussed instead of Sprint.
Friday’s report by the Journal said Son also talked with cable industry investor John Malone, who controls a large stake in Charter Communications through Liberty Broadband Corp.