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Millenium Eyeing an Exit?

Since its inception about seven years ago, the cable community has wondered aloud when Millennium Digital Media, the St. Louis-based MSO with about 130,000 subscribers in Washington, Oregon, Michigan and Maryland, would be sold.

Last week, the rumor mill was once again hot with speculation that Millennium was talking with cable investment bankers — including Denver-based Daniels & Associates — about a possible deal.

Millennium executives deny contemplating a sale. “We have not hired Daniels; we’re not talking to anybody,” senior vice president of programming and product development Peter Smith said. “Like all cable companies with multiple systems, we always evaluate offers to buy, sell or trade. But that’s something that goes on as a matter of routine business. We have not hired Daniels and have no other brokers hired. These are rumors we’ve heard over the years and we’re still here.”

Smith said Millennium is gearing up for a first-quarter rollout of voice-over-Internet protocol telephony — in conjunction with Net2Phone Inc. — and is even considering acquiring other cable properties.

But sources inside the investment community said Millennium has at least sent out feelers, with one saying Daniels received the listing for the property. Daniels chairman and CEO Brian Deevy declined comment.

Millennium has a system in Lansing, Mich., with more than 40,000 subscribers, but also has two large properties in Ann Arundel County, Md., and Seattle that are overbuilds of Comcast Corp.

“Not too many people want those two overbuilds,” a source in the financial community said.

One possible suitor could be overbuilder Wide Open West, which has about 295,000 subscribers in the Midwest, including Michigan. But the asking price — said to be about $400 million — could prove to be too rich for WOW.

Millennium was formed in 1997 by four seasoned cable executives, former Charter chief financial officer Jeffrey Sanders, former investment banker and Charter executive Kelvin Westbrook, former telecom consultant Charles Payer and former Charter and Brooks Fiber Properties executive John Brooks.

Sanders and Payer resigned in 2001 after Millennium shifted its focus from acquisitions to growing existing operations.

Brooks and Westbrook remain with Millennium; Westbrook is the CEO. Westbrook was traveling last week and could not be reached for comment.

Millennium was an avid buyer in the late 1990s, backed by Stamford, Conn.-based private equity firm TSG Capital Group LLC. TSG Capital, which has about $740 million under management, is an investor in several companies including broadcaster Entravision Communications Corp., apparel maker Urban Brands Inc. and Telscape Communications Inc., a local-exchange carrier that caters to U.S. Hispanics.

TSG Capital partner Darryl Thompson referred all comment to Millennium.