CIRI could see windfall with Voicestream investment

Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Cook Inlet Region Inc. moved a step closer to a windfall when the Federal Communication Commission approved a transaction to convert CIRI's interest in a wireless communications company to stock.

The FCC on Wednesday approved the Anchorage Native corporation's request to convert its limited partnership interest in VoiceStream Wireless Corp. into VoiceStream stock, said CIRI spokeswoman Allison Knox.

Once the transfer is complete, CIRI will own shares of VoiceStream which, as of the close of business Wednesday, was valued at $860 million.

CIRI's board of directors plans to meet Friday to review a recommendation from chief executive and president Carl Marrs on whether and how much stock to cash out, and whether to provide shareholders with a special dividend.

Shareholder speculation has been building in recent months that CIRI will make a large payout before the end of the year. The company has tried to downplay the deal in case the FCC rejected it or another snafu emerged. Still, Marrs hinted this month that if events stacked up in CIRI's favor, he would like shareholders to get a slice of the pie.

''If we can grow the company and make a large payout, that's what I'd like to do,'' Marrs said last week..

Cook Inlet Region has pumped $125 million in Bellevue, Wash.-based VoiceStream since 1997, according to Mark Kroloff, CIRI senior vice president and general counsel.

VoiceStream, one the nation's leading providers of wireless communication, will be sold to Deutsche Telekom for $50.7 billion, pending U.S. government approval. Under the proposed deal announced in July, each VoiceStream share would be converted into 3.2 shares of Deutsche Telekom plus $30.

Marrs said one factor the CIRI board must weigh in deciding whether to cash out VoiceStream stock is the timing of the Deutsche Telekom takeover. The 15-member board will have to consider if it's better to cash out now or wait and see if the stock value rises after VoiceStream is sold.

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