Freedom Mobile’s Original Founder Ups Efforts to Buy Back Company

Globalive Capital, owned by Freedom Mobile founder Anthony Lacavera, is pushing harder to buy the wireless provider back from Shaw Communications as Rogers Communications Inc. seeks regulatory approval for its $16 billion CAD acquisition of the former — reports The Globe and Mail.

In an open letter published on his website Wednesday, Mr. Lacavera urged Ottawa to ensure that whoever buys Freedom Mobile, which has about two million customers in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, is “truly independent.”

“We need a mobile carrier that has to earn the business of Canadians every single day, a mobile wireless carrier that doesn’t have current or historical ties to the Big Three carriers – no cozy personal relationships, employment history or closed-door, back-room deals,” reads the letter.

Innovation, Science, and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne said last month that the government will not allow the “wholesale transfer” of Shaw’s wireless business to Rogers as that could endanger competition in the industry.

If Rogers is allowed to absorb Freedom Mobile, the number of wireless players in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario would have been reduced from four to three and likely resulted in higher phone bills for consumers. Instead, the Rogers-Shaw merger will now not receive regulatory approval until Freedom Mobile is divested to Ottawa’s satisfaction.

Freedom Mobile was founded in 2008 as Wind Mobile by Mr. Lacavera after he acquired wireless airwaves Ottawa set aside to encourage competition from startups. The provider was sold to Shaw for $1.6 billion in 2016, and rebranded to Freedom Mobile.

Mr. Lacavera’s Globalive Capital has offered $3.75 billion for Freedom Mobile, with financing from a group of investors led by U.S. investment firms Twin Point Capital and Baupost Group.

Globalive Capital is not the only party looking to snatch up Canada’s fourth-largest wireless provider, though. Rogers has reportedly held talks with several potential buyers for Shaw’s wireless unit, one of them being rural internet service provider Xplornet.

However, Mr. Lacavera has argued that his track record of competing against Canada’s Big Three telecoms makes him an attractive buyer. “The launch of Wind resulted in an average savings of $400 a year to every Canadian household with a mobile plan, whether they were a Wind customer or not,” he said in his letter.

Laurie Bouchard, a spokesperson for Mr. Champagne, said the minister “will review any applications on their merit and what is in the best interest of Canadians.”

The Rogers-Shaw merger requires approval from three regulators: the Competition Bureau, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada.

The CRTC, which was responsible for reviewing the broadcasting side of the merger, approved the deal last month. The Competition Bureau is looking at the merger’s possible impact on competition across relevant industries, while ISED Canada is evaluating the transfer of Shaw’s spectrum licences to Rogers.

Rogers and Shaw expect the deal to close sometime in the second quarter of this year.