Friday greetings from my last day in D.C., with special kudos to the W Hotel for rustling me up a desk and chair that otherwise wasn't in the room (it's the little things). Please keep that scoop and feedback coming via email (email@example.com) or anonymous tip (http://axios.com/tips). Here we go...
Top of the Morning
When Sprint and T-Mobile first announced their mega-merger, it was about better competing with a pair of industry giants — AT&T and Verizon — that were well ahead of them in most every category. A $26 billion game of catch-up.
But now, more than a year later, the whole thing may hinge on an unexpected rival coming up from behind.
- We've previously noted that the U.S. Department of Justice is trying to broker a deal whereby spectrum-laden Dish Networks would become a fourth national mobile carrier, as predicate for approving the Sprint/T-Mobile deal.
- Dish on its own doesn't really worry T-Mobile, even if it got to piggyback on existing networks for a while, as it would still be a distant fourth.
- But T-Mobile is justifiably freaked out about the possibility of Dish partnering with a deep-pocketed tech giant like Google or Amazon, which could completely upend the coming race for 5G supremacy. That's why it reportedly wants assurances that Dish won't let any strategic investor take more than a 5% stake (even though there would seem to be plenty of structural ways for Dish to sidestep that cap).
State of play: Sprint and T-Mobile plan to extend their merger agreement past the July 29 deadline, marking the second such delay, per the WSJ.
Big call: The prospect of Dish-Google or Dish-Amazon is the biggest fly in T-Mobile CEO John Legere's punch bowl, and may be even less appetizing than a legal fight with federal antitrust regulators (particularly with ones that failed to block AT&T's purchase of Time Warner).
The estate of late oilman Aubrey McClendon is seeking to sell its 22% stake in the Oklahoma City Thunder, an NBA franchise valued by Forbes at around $1.5 billion, per Bloomberg.
- Why it's the BFD: Because this comes just as the Thunder traded away their most valuable asset, former league MVP Russell Westbrook. Can't imagine that move went over too well at Inner Circle Sports, the boutique investment bank managing the sale.
- Bottom line: "It’s difficult to pinpoint a value for McClendon’s stake, which comes with voting rights but few other perks, according to sources. There’s no representation on the board or decision-making authority. In such cases, buyers will often seek to apply what’s called an LP discount... Such discounts usually range from 10% to 20%." — Scott Soshnick, Bloomberg
Venture Capital Deals
• Minerva Project, a San Francisco-based higher education tech company, raised $57 million in Series C funding. Bytedance led, and was joined by TAL Education Group, Yongjin Group, Pinpoint Ventures, Kakao Ventures, Tan Tan Ventures and Lighthouse Combined. The company also is raising a separate $50 million to spin off its non-profit education provider arm. http://axios.link/5CFb
• Microphyt, a French microalgae startup, raised €28.5 million co-led by Sofinnova Partners and BPI France.
• NewsCred, a New York-based enterprise content marketing platform, raised $20 million. InterWest Partners led, and was joined by Dentsu, Escalate Capital Partners, FTV Captial, Mayfield, FirstMark Capital and Greycroft. http://axios.link/awWg
• Exyn Technologies, a Philadelphia-based developer of autonomous aerial robots, raised $16 million in Series A funding. Centricus led, and was joined by Yamaha Motors Ventures, In-Q-Tel, Corecam Family Office, Red and Blue Ventures and IP Group. http://axios.link/5Jl7
• IQM, a Finnish quantum computing startup, raised $13 million in seed funding from Matadero QED, Maki.vc, MIG Fonds, OpenOcean, Tesi and Vito Ventures. http://axios.link/EeVx
• GetAccept, a San Francisco-based sales engagement startup, raised $7 million in Series A funding led by DN Capital. www.getaccept.com
• Kencko, a maker of plant-based snacks, raised $3.4 million in seed funding from NextView Ventures, LocalGlobe, Kairos Ventures, Techstars and Max Ventures. http://axios.link/z7FL
Private Equity Deals
• Acorn Growth Cos acquired Black Sage Technologies, a Boise, Idaho-based maker of counter-unmanned aircraft systems. www.blacksagetech.com
• CVC Capital Partners agreed to buy the packaging machinery unit of car parts maker Bosch, with Reuters putting the business value at €850 million. http://axios.link/l7bs
• Equistone agreed to buy British residential property management company FirstPort from Epiris and Chamonix Private Equity.
• Gemspring Capital acquired a majority stake in Rapid Displays, a Chicago-based provider of point-of-purchase displays. www.rapiddisplays.com
🚑 H.I.G. Capital invested in MedPro Advantage, a management services organization affiliated with dermatology practice network Soderstrom Skin Institute. www.soderstromskininstitute.com
• North Castle Partners invested in Eschelon Fit, a connected bike rival to Peloton.
• PAI Partners has offered to buy listed Dutch food maker Koninklijke Wessanen for around €885 million. http://axios.link/10RE
• Veregy, a San Francisco-based portfolio company of Bow River Capital, acquired Dynamix, a Columbus, Ohio-based energy engineering services company. www.veregyconsulting.com
🚑 InMode, an Israeli maker of medical devices for aesthetic surgery, filed for a $75 million IPO. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq (INMD) with Barclays as lead underwriter, and reports $6.4 million of net income of $31 million in revenue for Q1 2019. Shareholders include Israel Healthcare Ventures and SpaMedical International. http://axios.link/fYYw
• Campbell Soup Co. (NYSE: CPB) agreed to sell Danish snacks business Kelsen to Italy’s Ferrero for $300 million. http://axios.link/d4CV
🚑 Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL) agreed to buy the skin-care unit of France’s Laboratoires Filorga Cosmétiques for €1.5 billion. http://axios.link/gUTU
• Verizon (NYSE: VZ) considered selling Yahoo Finance earlier this year, but never launched a formal process and is no longer planning to divest, per Reuters. http://axios.link/6OPL
• Volkswagen agreed to invest $2.6 billion into Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based self-driving tech upstart owned by Ford Motor Co. In related news, Ford said it will make at least 600,000 vehicles for Europe using Volkswagen's electric vehicle technology.
- Axios' Joann Muller writes: "By expanding an existing alliance, the deal allows two of the world's largest automakers to collaborate on the most expensive pieces of technology in a rapidly changing global auto industry. It also provides an important validation for Argo, now valued at more than $7 billion."
• Link Ventures, a Cambridge, Mass.-based early-stage tech investor, is raising $100 million for its second fund, per an SEC filing.
• Palladium Equity Partners, a New York-based middle-market buyout fund, raised $1.56 billion for its fifth fund.
• Stage Venture Partners, a Los Angeles-based seed investment firm focused on B2B tech, is raising $75 million for its third fund, per an SEC filing.
• Anish Acharya, a former Credit Karma executive, joined Andreessen Horowitz as a general partner focused on fintech investments. http://axios.link/urug