As a condition of SoftBank’s $20.1 billion investment in Sprint, regulators have required the companies to appoint a security director to keep an eye on the new foreign-owned carrier. Well, Sprint ain’t fooling around when it comes to credentials. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and retired Admiral Mike Mullen will assume that role after the deal closes.
Mullen served as the country’s highest-ranking military officer from 2007 until his retirement in 2011. In his four years he oversaw the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the gradual withdrawal of troops from Iraq. If Softbank was planning on using Sprint’s Overland Park, Kan., headquarters as a staging area for an invasion of the U.S., I’m sure Mullen will be on top of it.
“Admiral Mullen is an admired leader with an impeccable record,” Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in a statement. “We are fortunate that a person with his experience, accomplishments and reputation will be a member of our new board.”
Last week, Sprint got the okay from Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which cleared the way for the SoftBank deal through all national security agencies. Sprint, however, had to agree to a few conditions, including granting the government veto rights over which network equipment it used (bad news for Huawei), and the creation of a national security committee and security directors post on Sprint’s board.
SoftBank, a Japanese company, may not have any intentions of espionage, but since Sprint is one of the country’s largest telecommunication providers the government wants to keep extra tabs on it once it reverts to foreign control. Mullen will serve as an independent board member in charge of overseeing Sprint’s compliance with its new national security agreement. He’ll also be the U.S. government’s liaison with Sprint on security matters.
Sprint expects the deal to close in July, but it still needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission and it faces what could be a hairy shareholders’ vote next Wednesday. Dish Network has challenged Softbank’s bid for Sprint with a higher offer, and SoftBank has yet to counter.