Harbinger Capital Partners, the hedge-fund firm that owns wireless-network company LightSquared, which recently launched a frontal assault on the GPS signal, announced on July 6 that its chief operating officer (COO) had resigned by “mutual agreement.” Peter Jenson had been responsible for all operational activities of the funds. His exact role in the application for a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conditional waiver to broadcast a powerful L1 signal from 40,000 U.S.-based terrestrial cell towers is unknown at this time; however, it is certain to have been key.
Harbinger and LightSquared received a recent rebuff of sorts when the FCC-appointed Technical Working Group filed its final report on June 30, calling for a move of the company’s signal out of the L-Band. Close on the heels of that report came an announcement that the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Defense asked the Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to advise the FCC to continue to withhold authorization for LightSquared to commence commercial service per its proposed deployment of a terrestrial service within the 1525-1559 MHz bands.
On that same June 30 date, Harbinger Group Inc., a publicly traded company majority-owned by Harbinger Capital, appointed Omar Asali as acting president, replacing Harbinger founder Phil Falcone, who will continue to serve as chairman and chief executive.
Harbinger faces investor requests to withdraw about $1 billion invested in its funds, The Wall Street Journal reported in June. According to the newspaper, Harbinger told investors withdrawing money that they would be paid in part with stakes in LightSquared; the paper also reported that Harbinger has shrunk to about $6 billion in assets from a peak of $26 billion in 2008.
Asali is a managing director for Harbinger Capital and had previously served as the company’s head of global strategy, so his involvement in the GPS episode is also very probable. The personnel changes cannot be said to reflect a shift away from the contra-GPS initiative. LightSquared rhetoric has actually increased in vehemence on that topic. The moves can be conjectured to be strategic in nature, to satisfy or defuse investor discontent.