Alltel said yesterday it would lay off 140 Western Wireless employees in its Bellevue headquarters after purchasing the company for $4.4 billion in cash and...

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Alltel said yesterday it would lay off 140 Western Wireless employees in its Bellevue headquarters after purchasing the company for $4.4 billion in cash and stock.

The employees started to receive termination notices yesterday after the merger closed. They will have their jobs until Sept. 15, said Alltel spokesman Andrew Moreau.

The layoffs represent 15 percent of the 930 employees in the state and less than 6 percent of Western Wireless’ domestic work force. None of the 200 call-center employees in Issaquah was affected.

The layoffs could rise to as many as 330, but Moreau said there were no dates or numbers for future rounds.

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“That’s a conservative estimate,” he said. “As we work through the transition and integrate properties, there will be more details on jobs down the road.”

The announcement comes nine months after Redmond-based AT&T Wireless was acquired by Cingular Wireless. Since then, Atlanta-based Cingular has been slowly cutting back employment in both Redmond and Bothell, reducing the work force — once at 5,700 — by about 700 employees.

The impact has been noticeable in King and Snohomish counties.

In June 2004, 11,000 people were employed in the wireless industry. Last month, the number was down to 10,000, according to the Washington Employment Security Department.

Moreau said the Western Wireless workers who stay in Bellevue will have similar roles at Little Rock, Ark.-based Alltel. The work includes network planning for two different types of cellular networks; development of data applications; and regulatory affairs.

“They’ll continue to do pretty much the things they do today,” Moreau said.

Alltel will retain several high-ranking Western Wireless executives, including Jerry Gallegos , who will be an Alltel wireless-market area president in charge of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and Iowa (no Western Wireless markets are in Washington).

Moreau said at least seven other high-ranking Western Wireless executives have already been appointed to Alltel positions.

Western Wireless, co-founded by wireless pioneer John Stanton, provides cellphone service in rural markets under the Cellular One brand name and has significant holdings in international markets.

Last week, it announced the sale of its Irish subsidiary and said it was looking at offers for its network in Austria.

Alltel said it will continue to pursue that sale as well as the sale of Western Wireless’ remaining international assets.

As a condition of the merger, the Department of Justice will require Alltel to sell Western Wireless’ assets in Kansas, Nebraska and Arkansas. That will include the Cellular One name.

Alltel will become the largest regional wireless carrier in the country, with about 10 million customers in 34 states and $10 billion in annual revenues.

Based on Alltel’s stock price Friday, the deal was valued at $6.5 billion, including $933.4 million in cash, 54.3 million shares of common stock and the assumption of $2.1 billion in Western Wireless debt.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or