Rural Broadband Buys Muni System

Rural Broadband Investments, the small-market cable operator formed by private equity firm GTCR last year, has closed on the acquisition of a municipal cable system in Poplar Bluff, Mo., for an undisclosed sum.

The deal is the fifth for RBI and puts the company on the path toward building a platform of 300,000-to-400,000 cable subscribers in small-to-mid-sized rural markets. RBI now served more than 150,000 customers and passes more than 430,000 homes in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Nevada. RBI’s first acquisition was its purchase of NewWave Communications in February 2013, followed by Cable Management Associates and McDonald Cable/Cablevison systems.

In Poplar Bluff, RBI plans to roll out enhanced services already available in its nearby NewWave markets. 

“The Poplar Bluff system is an excellent add-on to our Southern Missouri footprint,” said RBI CEO Phil Spencer in a statement. “We intend to fiber tie the system and offer more HD channels, advanced commercial services and a more robust internet service. This will give us an exceptional opportunity to better serve customers and increase penetration of high-speed internet services as well as advanced commercial services.  We look forward to serving the residents of Poplar Bluff”. 

The Poplar Bluff municipal cable system was created in 2001, but City Mayor Ed DeGans said it had become increasingly harder to keep up with technological advances. 

“The City of Poplar Bluff has a golden opportunity to provide enhanced cable and internet services to its citizens through the sale of our system to a quality provider with over 150,000 subscribers,” DeGans said in a statement. “We can look forward to more cable options, more HD channels and faster internet speeds.  We are excited to welcome NewWave and Rural Broadband Investments to our community.”

RBI is a portfolio company of leading private equity firm GTCR, and is owned by GTCR and RBI management.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as legal counsel and PriceWaterhouseCoopers served as accounting advisor to GTCR.  RBC Capital Markets acted as exclusive financial advisor to RBI and GTCR.