LightSquared Moves Closer to Transferring Airwaves to New Owners

  • FCC readies vote on step for LightSquared to exit bankruptcy
  • New LightSquared owners to include JPMorgan, Fortress

LightSquared Inc. moved closer Friday to winning approval from U.S. regulators for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and others to take over its airwaves, a step the wireless company is seeking as it emerges from bankruptcy.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Friday asked the agency to approve LightSquared’s request, said an official familiar with the action who requested anonymity because the details haven’t been made public. The matter goes to a vote by the FCC’s five commissioners, who include Wheeler.

LightSquared’s plan to use its airwaves to operate a satellite and mobile phone network remains under consideration at the FCC without a deadline for action. The FCC rejected a similar plan in 2012, saying it would interfere with GPS technology.

LightSquared wants the FCC to approve transferring spectrum licenses to its new owners: JPMorgan, Fortress Investment Group LLC and Centerbridge Partners LP, which are taking control from Harbinger Capital Partners Funds, led by Philip Falcone.

Shannon Gilson, an FCC spokeswoman, declined to comment.  A notice posted on the agency’s website said the airwaves transfer had been circulated to the commissioners for a vote. Ashley Durmer, a LightSquared spokeswoman, didn’t respond to an e-mail and her telephone voice mail didn’t accept messages.

Dish Network

LightSquared won court permission to wrap up its bankruptcy in March after a trial in which hedge fund investors and Dish Network Corp. Chairman Charles Ergen jousted over the value of the company’s airwaves, estimating them at $4.5 billion and higher. At one point in 2013, Ergen was the only bidder for the company’s assets, offering $2.22 billion. He later withdrew the offer.

Lawyers told bankruptcy court the market has finally come to recognize the value of the company’s spectrum in a world where wireless businesses are booming and airwaves are a finite asset.

The case is In re LightSquared Inc., 12-bk-12080, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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