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One big deal

MBJ Editorial

Let’s all say it together now: “$115 billion. B-i-l-l-i-o-n. With a ‘B.’”

Can you believe it? We thought that Bernie’s Brookhaven baby was all grown up when WorldCom acquired MCI. The news last week that MCI WorldCom was acquiring Sprint for $115 billion, the largest corporate merger in history, was simply astounding. The story made page ones around the world and was told again and again on Web sites:


“It’s far and away the biggest business story of the century in Mississippi.”

That’s how Ashby Foote, president of Vector Money Management, summed up his reaction to Clinton-based MCI WorldCom’s reported victory in the race for Kansas City-based Sprint.

Foote compared MCI WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers to Bill Gates, the world’s richest man and head of Microsoft.

“Bill Gates has to thank his lucky stars that 12 years ago Bernie Ebbers didn’t decide to go into the software business,” Foote said.


Top executives at most big carriers believe that the communications landscape of the next decade will be dominated by a mere handful of global behemoths, and they all want their company to become one, or at least merge into one.

A combined MCI WorldCom-Sprint would likely have a faster growth rate than AT&T, based largely on the strength of MCI WorldCom’s robust data communications unit.


The combined company, to be called WorldCom, would have about 30% of the $90 billion long-distance market and create a huge rival to market leader AT&T Corp.

MCI WorldCom said the boards of the two companies had approved a definitive agreement to merge. The deal is expected to close in the second half of next year and is not expected to hurt WorldCom’s earnings per share, the company said.


Sprint PCS is the fastest-growing major wireless operator in the U.S., boasting more than 3.9 million subscribers and a nationwide network.

…the main attraction for MCI WorldCom is Sprint PCS. Wireless service has ben the missing element during CEO Bernie Ebbers’ empire-building.


Some observers expressed caution about the deal, citing the potential regulatory hurdles…this merger is expected to be subject to intense regulatory review, said Tom Burnett of Merger Insight.

“You’re going to have Justice Department, FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and states’ commissions looking into this,” he said. “It’s going to be a very long ordeal.”

In the wake of this historic deal, Mississippi observers have been left wondering: What’s next? What can this little-company-that-could do next? We can’t wait to see.


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