December 3, 2013

Sprint denies report of possible headquarters move

A blogger said the Overland Park-based wireless company is headed for California to be closer to its principal stockholder, Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp. A Sprint spokesman said no.

In what may become a recurring rumor, a blog reporter says Sprint Corp. will move its headquarters to somewhere in California.

The Overland Park-based company on Tuesday denied the report, which was based on unidentified sources.

Doug Duvall, Sprint’s vice president of corporate communications, said the headquarters will stay here even as he acknowledged its current operations in the Golden State.

“We have a presence in Silicon Valley now and that could increase over time, but again Sprint has no plans on moving its headquarters from Overland Park,” Duvall said.

It’s the logic of the situation that makes the report potentially evergreen.

Sprint is now 80 percent owned by Tokyo-based SoftBank Corp., thanks to a $21.6 billion transaction last summer. And it hardly makes sense for the Japan-based executives and experts to fly over Silicon Valley on their way to flyover country to meet with Sprint executives and experts.

Most of the time, they don’t.

“We’re talking to SoftBank on a daily basis in some part of our company,” Duvall said.

Some meetings take place in Overland Park, others in California or even Japan. Many sessions consist of conference calls between distant groups, taking advantage of the technologies that both companies sell.

But there is plenty of fodder for rumors.

Duvall said SoftBank has increased its own footprint in California since the deal with Sprint. He said the company has purchased an office building in Silicon Valley.

“That could be complemented by some Sprint personnel, but again we’re not moving our headquarters,” Duvall said.

Still, Sprint’s headquarters has moved before.

It shifted to Reston, Va., with the 2005 merger between Sprint and Nextel, which was based in Reston. Overland Park was designated the operations headquarters. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse brought Sprint’s headquarters back to Overland Park in February 2008, months after being named to the top post.

He had raised concerns at the time about a possible disconnect from having senior strategists on the East Coast and operational teams in Kansas.

Sprint’s deal with SoftBank wasn’t a merger. Sprint remains a separate, publicly traded U.S. company though its shares, which fell 15 cents Tuesday to $8.05, are owned mostly by SoftBank.

SoftBank, however, also wrote the checks that allowed Sprint to boost its network upgrade work, buy its longtime network partner Clearwire Corp. and become a potential bidder in billion-dollar government auctions of wireless spectrum that carries mobile customers’ video downloads, apps and other data.

And by the companies’ own accounts, SoftBank is a source of expertise as Sprint puts in place some of the same technologies that SoftBank uses in Japan.

As Sprint and SoftBank marched toward their deal earlier this year, they said Sprint’s headquarters would stay put. They’re still saying that.

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