The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Richard Byrne, chief executive officer at TowerCo and Scot Lloyd, his sidekick as well as TowerCo’s chief operating officer, built a new wireless radio tower company from scratch after leaving Spectrasite in 2004 as that firm merged with another tower company.
Now Byrne, Lloyd and their investors have pulled their own exit – selling TowerCo – the fifth largest operator of cellular towers in the country with more than 3,000 – to rival SBA Communications for a whopping $1.45 billion on Tuesday.
And don’t be surprised if the two as well as other colleagues at TowerCo don’t eventually launch another firm, or at least stay in the industry.
In a Q&A with WRAL Tech Wire, Byrne said he and Lloyd will “explore other opportunities” in the industry while the deal with SBA progresses toward a close in the fourth quarter.
The deal does mean that TowerCo will essentially disappear. All its towers go to SBA. TowerCo employees have been “offered the opportunity” to stay with the company until the deal closes.
Here’s the Q&A with Byrne:
What was the reasoning behind the sale? Were you approached by the buyer or were you seeking bids?
First of all, we congratulate the SBA team. As Jeff Stoops, CEO of SBA said in the call today, we’ve maintained a long and productive relationship with their management team. There’s a great deal of mutual respect between both teams. We completed a similar transaction together in 2008. In this case, the timing was right and the deal made sense for both companies.
Your firm recently raised a credit facility – were there any financial issues/cash flow/ etc. that led to this sale?
Does this sale cover the entire inventory of towers operated/owned by TowerCo? If not, how many remain and what are your plans for those?
The sale represents 100% of our tower assets.
Were these towers those that your firm acquired from Sprint?
Most of them. Others were from smaller transactions and build-to-suit.
If all of your towers are included, does this mean you are shutting down all aspects of the business? Will you refocus and deal primarily on sites/building towers?
As Jeff said in the call today, we expect the deal to close at some point in the fourth quarter. Our management team will continue to explore other opportunities in the industry.
Will any TowerCo employees be transferred to the buyer and/or laid off?
Employees have been offered the opportunity to remain with us until the deal closes.
How many employees does the company have currently?
We currently have over 70 employees, 58 in the Triangle region.
What are your future plans?
Our management team has enjoyed a long and productive work experience in the wireless infrastructure industry. Each of us intends to stay involved at some level. I’m sure that those plans will formalize after the sale closes.