Second big payout for CIRI shareholders

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Shareholders of Cook Inlet Region Inc. are getting the second installment of a windfall from the corporation's investment in wireless technology.

A typical shareholder with a hundred shares got $50,000 from the corporation just after Christmas. Now, that shareholder will get $15,029 more.

The two payouts to the Anchorage regional corporation's nearly 7,000 shareholders total about $408 million.

The money comes from the sale of 4.1 million shares of VoiceStream Wireless Corp. CIRI got those shares when the two corporations dissolved partnerships formed to take advantage of special Federal Communications Commission rules that favored minority-controlled companies in bidding on wireless licenses.

CIRI invested about $125 million in the partnerships back in 1997. When the partnerships were liquidated, CIRI got 7.5 million shares of VoiceStream stock in exchange for its interest.

VoiceStream was flying high last summer, with the price of a single share reaching nearly $160. It closed Friday at just over $102, meaning those 7.5 million shares would be worth more than $765 million.

CIRI's board voted Friday to make the latest payout. While the corporation was able to make some financial moves so the first one was tax-free to shareholders, this one will be subject to taxes.

Still, adding on a quarterly dividend of $838 per hundred shares also declared by the 15-member board Friday, CIRI has now paid shareholders more than $722 million, or $115,000 each for that 100-share owner who's been collecting since payouts began.

Even after the special distributions, said CIRI President Carl Marrs, ''our shareholders still own a substantial corporation that I believe is well positioned for future growth,''

Some of the VoiceStream stock is also going into an endowment for the CIRI Foundation. The board voted Friday to move 300,000 shares of the stock over to the corporation. With that addition of roughly $30 million, the endowment now holds nearly $50 million, according to CIRI. The foundation provides scholarships, education grants, and internships.

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