When it comes to the art of the deal, Chris Gent is in a league of his own. The 51-year-old chief executive of Britain's Vodafone AirTouch PLC has been on a buying binge, with each deal superceding the last in scope. Since January, 1999, when, as Vodafone's chief, he scooped up U.S. rival AirTouch Communications Inc., he has negotiated a $70 billion venture with Bell Atlantic Corp. to combine both companies' wireless assets in the U.S. And he has acquired Germany's Mannesmann for $183 billion after a hostile takeover battle. Gent's latest coup? Snapping up one of five highly coveted British licenses for the next generation of mobile phones for $8.7 billion.
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