NEW YORK and DENVER: Verizon and Qwest are locked in an unusually public battle to acquire MCI. And according to Qwest, that publicity is no accident.
MCI has accepted Verizon's offer to buy the company for $23.10 a share, and is now moving toward a shareholder vote. But Qwest is countering with an offer of $27.50, and is not being shy about it.
Because Qwest's offer was unsolicited, said Tyler Gronbach, Qwest's VP of corporate communications, it was vital to make it as public and transparent as possible in order to reach MCI investors.
"We started off with barely having our foot in the door," said Gronbach. "Now we're getting national media attention, which has played a vital role in reaching a broad audience.
"[The investors] will ultimately decide this, and it's important that they are aware of what we are trying to do," he added.
Eric Rabe, Verizon's VP of media relations, conceded that without the "public noise," Qwest wouldn't be a factor. "They played the cards they had," he said.
It's a play that would appear to be working, as many MCI shareholders are now calling for the company to accept Qwest's higher offer.
So Verizon is taking advantage of the media attention, claiming that the battle for MCI isn't about which company is offering a higher bid, but which will be in a better position for the long haul, particularly to go head-to-head with the company that will come out of the proposed SBC Communications-AT&T merger.
"We've been talking about the long-term prospects, and that we can emerge from this as a stronger company," said Rabe. "And the MCI board has seen that, and have accepted our offer."