Benton Ridge Telephone and Its Broadband Subsidiaries to be Acquired by Investment and Management Firm Cequel III
The acquisition will help fuel the continued expansion of hybrid fiber and fixed wireless broadband, continuing BRTC’s 120-year legacy of bringing essential telecommunications services to rural America.
LIMA, Ohio–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Benton Ridge Telephone Company (“BRTC” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce that its Shareholders have approved the acquisition of the Company and its subsidiaries by Cequel III, a St. Louis based investment and management firm with a rich legacy in the telecommunications industry. Pending regulatory approvals, the acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2022. The purchase price was not disclosed.
“This is an exciting and challenging time in the telecommunications industry,” said BRTC President and CEO Chris Daniels. “The demand for reliable, high-speed broadband services has intensified over the past two years, driven by a shift in how people work, learn, and are entertained. This has resulted in an unprecedented focus on the ubiquitous delivery of broadband to all Americans, and a sense of urgency to deliver faster and more reliable services than are available in many rural areas today. The acquisition by Cequel III will help fuel the continued expansion of rural broadband services provided through our Watch Communications ('Watch') and Community Fiber Solutions ('CFS') subsidiaries.”
The BRTC family of companies provides broadband, voice, video, and related services using a hybrid fiber and fixed wireless approach. As the seventh largest recipient of Connect America Phase II funding, Watch has been aggressively expanding its high-speed broadband services and areas of coverage since mid-2019 and has increased subscribers and revenue by 62% and 82% respectively. Both Watch and CFS are heavily investing in the upgrade of their network infrastructure to enable the reliable and consistent delivery of broadband services between 100Mbps and 1Gbps to all customers over the next two years.
Cequel III is led by Jerry Kent, a recognized entrepreneur and trailblazer in the telecommunications and technology industries, with an outstanding track record of customer service and delivering superior returns for investors. In 1993, Kent co-founded Charter Communications, building that company into one of the 10 largest cable operators in the U.S. Charter led the industry in superior operating results and, from its IPO date until September 2001, the month Kent left, Charter’s was the best performing public cable stock. After co-founding Cequel III in 2002, Kent and team managed AAT Communications, which they grew into the largest privately owned cell tower company in the U.S. before its sale in 2006. The Cequel III team also managed Suddenlink Communications, which – at the time of its sale in 2015 – was the seventh largest U.S. cable company and also had operating results among the best in its industry. The Benton Ridge family of companies will be Cequel III’s only telecommunications business in its current investment portfolio, giving the firm a solid platform for growth. Cequel III’s investment in BRTC will be made through its family office direct investment arm.
“Like BRTC’s leadership team, we’re committed to bringing advanced, dependable broadband services to underserved, rural communities,” said Jerry Kent. “The Cequel III team’s track record and expertise in broadband will help enhance the already exceptional service the BRTC companies deliver to their customers. We’re excited to support their mission and help them build on their long and impressive legacy.”
KPMG Corporate Finance, LLC, acted as exclusive financial advisor to BRTC on the sale of the Company to Cequel III.
About Benton Ridge Telephone Company
The Benton Ridge Telephone Company is a rural ILEC serving three exchanges in west central Ohio. Founded in 1902, the Company has a rich history of delivering telecommunications services in unserved rural communities. BRTC founded W.A.T.C.H. TV Company dba Watch Communications in 1992 to deliver cable television services in the same rural Ohio communities using wireless technologies. Watch began delivering Internet services in 1998 and now provides broadband and related services in rural areas of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky leveraging a hybrid fiber and fixed wireless strategy. Founded in 2010, Community Fiber Solutions is a fiber-focused company delivering broadband, voice, and video services in Eastern Indiana and Western Ohio.
About Cequel III
Cequel III is an investment and management firm focused on the development of service-oriented companies with recurring revenues. Founded in 2002, it has repeatedly created long-term value for investors by building great enterprises that are industry leaders – growing market share, fostering customer loyalty, recruiting and retaining the best talent, and delivering outstanding operational results, which together position the businesses with which it is involved for great success. Since its inception, Cequel III and its management team have successfully consummated transactions totaling over $40 billion in value, across companies in technology, communications, and business services.