As details of the rumored merger between Sprint Corp. and Nextel Communications Inc. were being finalized behind closed doors late Tuesday, Miguel Avila, who heads Nextel's Hispanic marketing, summed up the mood of employees at the company's Reston headquarters.
"There's probably more anxiety here than Mel Brooks had in his movie 'High Anxiety,' " Avila said with a laugh.
Some Nextel employees in the legal department, from left, Jack Scott, left, director, systems support; Chandra Chambliss, executive, administration; Jack Delaney, manager, regulatory; and Michael Allen, special counsel, regulatory. The office window looks down on the Dulles Toll Road.
(Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
Sprint and Nextel executives said that the merger will result in layoffs but that the company will not shuffle hordes of employees between the new company's operational headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, and its executive headquarters in Reston.
Still, Cara Dahl, Nextel's senior director of national events and trade shows, seems ready for anything. "You know, there could be worse places than Kansas City," she said. "Or Overland Park, Kan. I have to be correct. If I say Kansas City, I may never get there."
Even more uncertain, though, is whether the new company will retain any of the scrappy, entrepreneurial spirit that marked Nextel, which was created in 1987 and grew by linking together a hodgepodge of radio transmission networks. Its reputation is different from that of rivals like Sprint and Verizon.
Sprint is best known, perhaps, for its long-distance service, Nextel for its "push-to-talk" wireless phones.
Although this walkie-talkie service, which provides an instant connection without dialing a number, has been derided by competitors, it has helped Nextel become a major player in the wireless industry. Analysts also say the nimble, open management style of Nextel's chief executive, Timothy M. Donahue, contributed to the company's success.
"The entrepreneurial spirit will remain," said Kevin Hussey, Nextel's director of wireless data product sales. "And I don't think you are going to see any change in the culture . . . given the leadership that we've got."
Donahue will become the new company's executive chairman. Sprint's chairman and chief executive, Gary D. Forsee, will be president and chief executive.
"Today was really the first time I have ever heard from Gary Forsee but I certainly liked what I saw," said Hussey, who saw the Sprint chief on the webcast of yesterday's news conference. "It sounds like the vision they have for the company is very complementary to the one that we have."