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Inside Bulloch Business - Rural broadband company buys Northland
Rendering of Northland Cable office
A rendering of what the new Northland Cable office will look like is shown here.

GTCR LLC, a private equity firm based in Chicago, announced last week that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Northland Communications through GTCR's portfolio company Mega Broadband Investments LLC, which is a partnership with Atlanta-based CEO Phil Spencer. 

Founded in 1981, and headquartered in Seattle, Wa., Northland provides high-speed data, television, and voice services to residential and business subscribers in rural markets in the Southeast, Texas and the Northwest. Northland Communications has operated as the primary cable television and high-speed internet provider in Statesboro since acquiring the company from local owners in 1984.

The acquisition of Northland is part of what GTCR calls The Leaders Strategy. In October 2017, GTCR established Mega Broadband with Spencer to focus on acquiring rural broadband assets. Previously, Spencer was CEO of Rural Broadband Investments LLC, a GTCR-funded rural cable provider that was acquired in May 2017 by Cable One, Inc. 

"The acquisition of Northland Communications is a great first step and provides us with an excellent platform to build upon," Spencer said. "Northland has laid the groundwork by beginning network upgrades that will give us state-of-the-art infrastructure through which to rollout enhanced high-speed data services to both our residential and commercial customers. Further, Northland has an outstanding employee base, and we plan to continue building upon the excellent work they have done to date while investing tens of millions of incremental dollars into the network over the course of our first year of ownership."

"We are excited to continue our partnership with two-time GTCR CEO Phil Spencer," said Phil Canfield, managing director at GTCR. "We have evaluated numerous opportunities within the cable industry and believe that Northland represents an exciting platform. John Whetzell and his team deserve a tremendous amount of credit for building Northland into what it is today and we look forward to carrying on John's legacy as we continue growing the business both organically and via complementary acquisitions."

"Along with the rest of my executive team I want to thank all the Northland employees for the success we have had at Northland over the last 37 years," said John Whetzell, founder of Northland. "We have enjoyed a tremendous run and I am excited to watch the organization continue to thrive under GTCR's ownership and Phil's leadership." 

A local ownership group that was led by Lehman Franklin, founded Statesboro CATV in the early 70s.  Lee Johnson, became involved in the company very early after it was founded serving as general manager. Johnson continued with Northland after the sale and remains in a key leadership position with the company corporately. Statesboro CATV’s first employee in Statesboro, Dan Cullimore, served as a regional engineer for Northland until his death in 2010.

In addition to Franklin, the original owners of Statesboro CATV included: Charlie Robbins, Albert Roesel, O.B. “Red” Bell, Hu Smith Marsh, Joe McGlamery, Al McDougald, Eddie Rushing, Bo Hook, Smith Banks, Ed Eckles and Don McDougald.

Construction will continue on the new office building on East Vine Street as well as network improvements. They will continue to operate locally under the Northland Communications brand. There are no immediate operational changes planned for Statesboro.

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