Halyard Capital Acquires Ga. Utility's Cable Assets For $70 Million

Cable veteran John Brooks has established a new link to the industry.

Brooks, most recently the executive vice president of Broadstripe, formerly Millennium Digital Media, has formed NuLink and with a financial assist from Halyard Capital purchased the cable assets of Newnan Utilities, the municipally-owned utility in Newnan, Ga.

The $70 million transaction, which closed April 21, was financed by Halyard Capital, the New York-based private equity firm and an investment from Brooks, who is serving as chairman and CEO.

NuLink acquired the video and high-speed data businesses from Newnan Utilities, which also provides water, electrical and sewer services to Coweta County, a growing area about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta. The primary cable competitors in the area are Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications.

NuLink would not disclose the number of video and high-speed subscribers it has acquired from Newnan, which began offering those services during the last decade.

Newnan developed a fiber network in 1995 and began providing video and high-speed services two years later in the region, which Brooks says is experiencing housing growth and benefiting economically from the recent opening of a Kia factory, about 20 miles to the south.

He says the 750 MHZ plant is state of the art and believes NuLink, which retained the utility’s 30 employees engaged in the video and data disciplines, will gain traction through enhanced customer service.

“It’s been my experience over the years that the best thing you can do is to offer top-quality services and then provide the best customer experience possible. You want to let the people know you are proud to serve them,” said Brooks, who prior to working at Broadstripe/Millennium, which he co-founded in 1998, was a co-founder and senior executive of Brooks Fiber Properties, a provider of competitive telecommunications services across the United States. He began his career at Cencom Cable Associates, a St. Louis-based cable operator with some 550,000 subscribers in 16 states. 

NuLink, working with Atlanta ad firm Eye to Eye, expects to unveil a new logo this week and soon affix it to its truck fleet. NuLink, which has already communicated the change to Newnan customers via direct mail, will also herald its arrival via billboards and other area signage, according to Brooks.

NuLink will also open a retail center in Newnan, where customers can pay their bills, exchange equipment and sample services.

The first major order of business is developing a stand-alone billing platform. Brooks, who is looking for staffing in the financial and marketing departments, said he’s evaluating vendors and hopes to have the conversion completed by the end of the third quarter.

Similarly, he’ll assess vendors as the company looks to launch VoIP phone service and video-on-demand applications later in 2008.

The addition of a voice product will push NuLink into the “triple play” game, which will not only appeal to residential customers, but is designed to expand its commercial services opportunities as well.

Firming up the NuLink’s high-definition channel lineup, currently a 21-channel offering for $12.95 monthly, will be a 2009 initiative.

“There’s absolutely growth there too, as flat screens become less expensive,” he said.

Newnan claimed to be the first video provider in Georgia to offer DVR functionality.

The company’s expanded-basic offering, encompassing 80 channels, retails for $39.75 per month, while its top digital package extends to 125 networks, plus 45 music channels for $57.85.

Brooks said he was approached by Halyard in "late January, early February," to assume the leadership role with the new company.

 “We look forward to partnering with John Brooks and believe his experienced leadership will contribute to the company’s continued success,” said Halyard principal Michael Furey in a statement. “NuLink has achieved a local market leadership position and is well-positioned for further growth.”

Noted Halyard partner Bruce Eatroff: “Halyard has been seeking an investment in a fully upgraded cable system in a high-growth market and we are excited to be acquiring the cable assets of Newnan Utilities. We will continue to invest in the company’s infrastructure to deliver a premium customer experience.”

If Halyard and Brooks have their way, those experiences will find their way to other locations.

“We’re going to focus inwardly next several months, and take a long look at the operation. We’ll get the billing operation in order, enhance our customer care,” Brooks said, before NuLink begins seeking other acquisition opportunities in the southeast.