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Dish chairman asserts U.S. advantage in Sprint bid

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen attends the Google's annual developers conference in San Francisco, California May 20, 2010. REUTERS/Rob
Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen attends the Google's annual developers conference in San Francisco, California May 20, 2010. REUTERS/Rob

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dish Network Corp Chairman Charlie Ergen escalated the war of words with Japan's SoftBank Corp over the future of U.S. mobile company Sprint Nextel Corp, saying Sprint's network needed modernization best performed by English-speaking employees from a U.S. company.

In an interview on Wednesday with USA Today, the country's third-largest newspaper, Ergen said Dish's American roots gave it an operational edge in the bidding war with SoftBank over Sprint.

"We're offering a higher price, that's just math. We are an American company and the modernization of Sprint's network will have to be done from the U.S.," he said.

"You have to climb the towers here and you'll have to have U.S. employees who speak English. Operations command control will be in America. That's good for jobs. It doesn't mean that the other guys are bad. It's just that we have an advantage."

The company later offered a statement after inquiries about Ergen's interview.

"While we hold SoftBank's management capabilities in high regard, we believe there are benefits to managing and operating Dish Sprint domestically," Dish Network said in a written statement.

No comment was immediately available from SoftBank due to a holiday in Japan.

Ergen's interview came a day after SoftBank President Masayoshi Son said Dish would cripple Sprint with debt and was ill-prepared to run a wireless service.

The billionaire Son, who attended high school and university in California, said there would be no need for SoftBank to sweeten its $20.1 billion bid, and he dismissed Dish's $25.5 billion offer as "incomplete and illusory."

Yet two prominent Sprint shareholders, Paulson & Co and Omega Advisors, have publicly said that the Dish offer looks better than SoftBank's.

Sprint has formed a special committee to consider Dish's bid.

(Reporting By Emily Flitter; Additional reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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