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Spirit Airlines CEO: JetBlue is being 'childish' with inflammatory rhetoric

·Anchor, Editor-at-Large
·2-min read

The battle for discount air carrier Spirit Airlines (SAVE) is coming down to the wire after months of fiery rhetoric from suitors Frontier Airlines (ULCC) and JetBlue (JBLU).

Spirit shareholders are expected to vote on a merger with Frontier on Thursday. But not before one last hot take on the buyout drama from Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie.

"Obviously we were surprised in the beginning when we heard from [JetBlue] nearly three months ago with their unsolicited proposal," Christie said on Yahoo Finance Live. "Once their position turned hostile with us, the rhetoric has kind of dominated, which in my view appears childish."

A JetBlue spokesperson didn't return Yahoo Finance's request for comment on Christie's statement.

A JetBlue Airways plane passes a Spirit Airlines jet as it lands at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
A JetBlue Airways plane passes a Spirit Airlines jet as it lands at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

In early February, Frontier Airlines offered to buy Spirit for $2.9 billion. JetBlue countered with a higher bid of $3.6 billion in April, which Spirit rebuffed, citing the uncertainty around regulatory approval. Since then, the two bidding airlines have been exchanging unpleasantries and higher offer prices.

In its latest attempt to sweeten its bid, JetBlue raised its reverse breakup fee to $400 million from $350 million. It also proposed paying $2.50 a share in advance compared to its previous offer of $1.50 a share and added a $0.10 per share monthly payment to shareholders beginning in 2023 and lasting until the deal would be completed or terminated.

Meanwhile, Frontier lifted its reverse breakup fee to $350 million and increased its upfront offer to $4.13 a share from $2.13 previously.

If Frontier and Spirit move forward with the merger (the deal has the blessing of influential corporate governance firm Institutional Shareholder Services), the airline would be the fifth-largest in the United States and gain a stronger hold in the Western market. It would also mark the biggest airline deal since Alaska Airlines combined with Virgin America in 2016.

Should Jetblue gain Spirit, it would obtain access to a lucrative pipeline of new jets and pilots (among other benefits).

Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle told Yahoo Finance Live that Spirit has "a clear choice" and that he is looking forward to putting the drama behind the company and getting Spirit's assets on board.

JetBlue has "done plenty of mischaracterizations and so forth themselves," Biffle said. "All I know is that we're really pleased to see ISS come in and recommend our deal for shareholders."

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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