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Sprint's history in Overland Park: What led to proposed merger with T-Mobile

Posted at 1:34 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 21:08:17-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The origin of Overland Park-based Sprint begins with a railroad and a telephone company.

From the Brown Telephone Company and Southern Pacific Railroad, a new name emerged in the 1970s in long-distance dialing: Sprint.

At its peak, the company would eventually become the third-largest mobile network operator in the United States.

Although an early headquarters was located at 81st Street and State Line Road, it's the company's sprawling campus in Overland Park that most people associate with Sprint. The corporation moved to the 17-building compound in the late 1990s.

That's where a steady decline began.

In a two-year period from 2001 to 2003, more than 20,000 workers were laid off nationwide. There would be many more cuts announced in the following years.

Mergers, too.

In 2004, Sprint and Nextel announced the two companies would merge to become Sprint Nextel Corporation. In 2013, the Japanese telecommunications SoftBank completed its acquisition of Sprint.

Several years later, rumors began to emerge about a possible merger with T-Mobile, and the two companies began on-again, off-again talks. The announcement of a $26 billion deal finally came in April 2018.

"This company's about growth, so when you bring better product, better price, more jobs, this is a poster child. This is what every merger should look like," then-Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said at the time.

The plan was to cut costs for consumers and develop a 5G network. There were hoops to jump through first, such as approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. This summer, 13 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia sued in an effort to block the deal, saying it would harm consumers.

While the merger worked its way through Washington, a real estate deal marked the end of an era in Overland Park. A Wichita company took ownership of the Sprint campus, with a plan for the company to lease back space.

As part of the merger with T-Mobile, which the Justice Department approved on Friday, the campus will serve as a second headquarters for the new T-Mobile.

"There was a strong commitment on the part of (T-Mobile CEO) John Legere that Kansas City is a critical hub for the company," Sprint Vice President of Corporate Communications David Tovar said during Legere's visit last fall.