Freedom Mobile founder taps Rogers rival Telus

Anthony Lacavera, the founder and former CEO of the now Freedom Mobile company, is sweetening his offer to acquire the wireless business by teaming up with Telus in a network-sharing deal.

The fate of Freedom Mobile’s wireless business is the central issue blocking Rogers’ $26 billion deal to acquire Shaw after the Competition Bureau went to court last week to block the deal .

The bureau said Rogers had offered some divestments of Shaw’s wireless assets, but hadn’t gone far enough to prevent a sharp decline in competition in the cellular market.

While Pierre-Karl Péladeau’s Quebecor has emerged as a potential candidate to pick up the assets, Lacavera said he hopes the arrangement with Telus proves that he has crafted an offer that makes financial sense and that will benefit Canadian wireless customers.

“It puts us in a position where we tick all the boxes for the government and Rogers,” Lacavera said in an interview with the Star, adding, “I think this deal puts us on a level playing field with Quebecor.

Lacavera’s investment firm, Globalive Capital, has offered $3.75 billion for Freedom Mobile, an offer he says still stands. He said he was backed by a syndicate of mostly American investors, including Twin Point Capital and Baupost Group.

Lacavera said his group had discussions with Rogers, but Globalive had refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement to join an earlier process to consider potential buyers for Shaw’s wireless assets.

Globalive announced the deal with Telus Thursday morning, and Lacavera said if its bid is successful, Freedom Mobile and Telus would be able to share network infrastructure, such as cell towers. They could also combine spectrum — the waves that carry wireless signals — in areas where Freedom operates.

“Think of (spectrum) as a highway,” he said. “Telus has a six-lane highway, Freedom has a three-lane highway. Put them together, there’s a nine-lane highway, and now all customers enjoy that nine-lane highway.

Freedom Mobile, which offers service in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, has helped drive down wireless prices and spurred the introduction of user-friendly features such as unlimited data.

Lacavera and his business partners founded Wind Mobile in 2008 and, after a number of regulatory and operational setbacks, Shaw bought the company in 2016 and later renamed it Freedom Mobile.

Calgary-based Rogers and Shaw announced their landmark deal in March 2021, after years of speculation that the companies would combine their cable assets.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has approved the transfer of Shaw’s broadcast assets to Rogers, but the deal still requires approval from the federal Department of Innovation and the Competition Bureau, which both focus on how the deal would affect the wireless market.

The Competition Bureau said it was still open to a settlement of its court case to block the merger, but said in legal documents it wanted a buyer for the wireless assets who has enough cash and operating experience to keep the pressure on the big three. , Rogers, Telus and Bell.

The bureau further said it was important to bundle wireless service with internet and home TV, but Lacavera downplayed its importance.

He said a standalone wireless player can be just as competitive, citing the example of TMobile in the United States, which hasn’t traditionally operated a home Internet or TV business.

Telus spokesman Richard Gilhooley did not elaborate on the deal, but said the company has a long history of providing network access to organizations “seeking bulk access to network services. at wholesale rates.

“The network sharing agreement announced today will allow Globalive to expand the reach and coverage of its network if it is the successful repair partner for Freedom Mobile in the proposed merger between Rogers and Shaw” , Gilhooley said.

Globalive did not disclose the economics of its agreement with Telus, which also has a separate network sharing agreement with Bell.

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