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Monday, November 13, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Fledgling Hawkeye a venture of Nextel Partner's ex-CEO

Seattle Times technology reporter

It is hard to stay out of the game, especially when you have tasted success.

Ask John Chapple. After Nextel Partners in Kirkland was sold to Sprint Nextel for about $9 billion this summer, Nextel Partners CEO Chapple vowed he would retire. It took a month for him to change his mind.

Last week, he said he was back at it again, this time as an investor.

Before starting Nextel Partners, Chapple was president of the Vancouver Grizzlies and Vancouver Canucks, that British Columbia city's pro basketball and hockey franchises (the Grizzlies have since moved to Memphis).

He was also chairman of Cellular One, the brand operated by McCaw Cellular Communications, which later became AT&T Wireless.

Chapple said he reconsidered his decision to retire on a visit to Bainbridge Island, where he saw a hawk swoop down and catch a fish.

"It was a karmic event — the hawk was successful," he said.

He figures he can be, too.

His investment company will be named Hawkeye Investments and will be based out of Carillon Point, an office park in Kirkland, where wireless entrepreneur Craig McCaw and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates also have investment arms.

Rally Capital, an investment fund operated by Dennis Weibling, a former colleague of Chapple's at Nextel Partners, also is there.

Chapple said his first investment will be in Telesphere, a Phoenix-based company working on voice over Internet Protocol service for small and medium-sized businesses.

The undisclosed sum was made by both Chapple and Rally. Chapple said they recruited Clark Peterson to be chief executive; he worked at McCaw Cellular, XO Communications and Clearwire.

Chapple said he's still working out the details of Hawkeye. He is now using personal funds, including more than $50 million he made from the sale of Nextel Partners. But it could involve others in the future.

"We've gotten a ton of inquires about coming into the fund from people I knew in the cable industry going back to the '70s," he said. "What I'm going to do with Hawkeye and how closely held I want Hawkeye, I don't know."

Chapple joins an exclusive yet growing niche of investors in the Seattle area who are focused on telecommunications and wireless investments.

John Stanton and other executives from Western Wireless started Trilogy Equity Partners after they sold their company to Alltel. SeaPoint Ventures, led by Tom Huseby, scouts telecom deals here for California investors, and Ignition Partners, a fund of telecom and software veterans, also specialize in the field.

Chapple said his interest is based on the favorable climate.

"I don't want to get too enthusiastic, but there's definitely a lot of opportunities out there," Chapple said.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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