Table: The Path to Power
Vodafone's Chris Gent explodes on the international scene, outbidding American rival Bell Atlantic for control of Sam Ginn's AirTouch Communications. The $63 billion deal creates Vodafone AirTouch, the first global giant of wireless telephony.
Gent strikes an agreement with Bell Atlantic to combine both companies' wireless networks in the U.S. They're later marketed as a single brand, Verizon Wireless.
Mannesmann, then Vodafone's partner in Germany, stuns Gent by snapping up British operator Orange for $28 billion. Mannesmann briefly competes with Vodafone for European supremacy.
Gent hits back, launching a hostile bid for Mannesmann. The price rises with Vodafone stock, reaching a world-record $183 billion by the time Vodafone prevails three months later.
Gent forms Net venture with Vivendi's Jean-Marie Messier. The goal: to create a Net portal, later dubbed Vizzavi, that will reach customers through their PCs, digital TVs, and cell phones.
Bidding wars break out for next-generation wireless licenses. Britain alone costs $35 billion; Germany tops $50 billion. Investors are spooked.
As debt-ridden competitors sell, Gent buys. He ups stakes in Japan's J-Phone and Spain's Airtel, partially financing deals with $5.4 billion in new equity. Subscribers in Vodafone's 29-country empire surge to 89 million.