Following through on steps first taken in February to sever its bonds with
Sprint Corp., EarthLink Inc. Tuesday filed with the Securities and Exchange
Commission to allow the telecommunications giant to sell part of the 27.2
percent stake it holds in the ISP.
Sprint will sell 12.5 million shares of EarthLink common stock, reducing its
stake in the company to 17.6 percent.
The two companies once seemed destined for a merger, but Tuesday’s move
seemingly opens the door for another company to make a play for EarthLink,
one of the largest ISPs in the U.S.
In February, the two companies terminated their co-branding agreement. Sprint gave up its first-rights status
to acquire the company in September, and also gave up its board seats.
At the time, EarthLink Chief Executive Officer Garry Betty said the company
was having trouble finding new channel partners because potential partners
had trouble understanding its relationship with Sprint.
Upon the February agreement to revise the relationship between the two
companies, Betty said, “Up until today, there were a lot of people who
thought it was a fait accompli that Sprint was the de facto owner. What this
(deal) does is clearly establish another step of independence for us and
opens the field for all types of possibilities.”