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EarthLink, Sprint Amend Alliance to Pursue Other Partners
Associated Press
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ATLANTA — EarthLink Inc. and Sprint Corp. said Friday they have liberalized their three-year-old marketing and branding alliance to give each company more flexibility to pursue deals with other partners.

The revised alliance ends exclusivity terms and allows Sprint and EarthLink to drop each other's name from Internet products.

Sprint, which owns 27 percent of Atlanta-based EarthLink, also relinquished two seats on the Internet service provider's board and its right to buy EarthLink this year. Sprint retained the right to bid against any competing offer for the company.

EarthLink said it will take an $11.3 million non-cash charge this quarter to write off assets related to the previous alliance.

"Like any relationship, with time and experience, it can — and should — be modified periodically to reflect the natural evolution of the relationship," said EarthLink chief executive Garry Betty.

Sprint, based in Kansas City, Mo., said it will continue marketing EarthLink-Sprint service to dial-up Internet customers for now, but anticipates buying wholesale EarthLink access and selling it as Sprint service in the future.

All EarthLink services now will be sold only with the EarthLink name.

"From our perspective, our Internet offerings are changing," Sprint spokeswoman Cindy Parks said. "We've got a broad and expanding portfolio and we needed the flexibility to work with a lot of partners."

Shares of EarthLink were up 91 cents, or 10 percent, to $9.81 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Sprint shares were down 59 cents at $24.06 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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