ATN International, Inc. on Friday completed its acquisition of the Innovative group of companies, bringing the Virgin Islands telecommunications industry full circle.
In a news release issued Friday, the company said the acquisition of the U.S.V.I. utility "provides a full range of enhanced telecommunications and media services to consumers and business in the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with cable TV services to customers in the British Virgin Islands and St. Maarten."
In the USVI, ATN will combine the Innovative operations with its retail wireless business, currently operating under the “Choice” name. ATN, whose full corporate name is Atlantic Tele-Network Inc., is headquartered in Beverly, Mass.
Friday’s news release did not give financial details of the deal. When the company announced in October its plan to purchase Innovative from the Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, which had acquired the Virgin Islands utility in 2010, it gave the purchase price as approximately $145 million, subject to certain purchase price adjustments, with $85 million payable in cash and the option to finance the remaining $60 million of the purchase price with a loan from an affiliate of CFC, the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative.
“Our deep roots in the U.S. Virgin Islands, strong local team, and significant expertise and financial resources puts us in a great position to utilize Innovative’s extensive network infrastructure and people to create incredible value for customers,” said Michael T. Prior, ATN chief executive officer. “Our entire team is committed to applying our
leadership and customer-centric approach to Innovative’s advanced technology and services. This is an exciting new chapter, not only for Innovative, but for all island residents who want extraordinary service, great pricing and leading-edge technology. We intend nothing less than to ensure that Innovative is the best company in the Virgin Islands.”
Prior is the son of Cornelius B. Prior Jr., who in 1989 formed ATN with Jeffrey Prosser. Its assets included the Virgin Islands Telephone Company (known as VITELCO, and operated in later years as Innovative) and 80 percent ownership of Guyana Telephone and Telegraph, plus stakes in other telephone and cable operations throughout the Caribbean. After a decade in which the two partners differed often over strategic and business issues, and during which lawsuits were traded back and forth, they split the company in 1997. Prosser took the Virgin Islands company and the elder Prior took ATN and it’s wide-ranging assets, later creating the Choice wireless system in the territory.
A decade after that, Prosser filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and ICC –the parent company of VITELCO, Innovative Cable, TV Channel 2 and other local companies – was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2010 Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, which was by far the biggest creditor of the V.I. company, took it over to protect the half billion dollars it had in VITELCO.
In the following years RUCFC invested millions of dollars in Innovative, essentially completely replacing the old infrastructure with new equipment and hybrid fiber optic lines. But the company never made a secret of the fact that it didn’t plan to run the system longterm, but was trying to increase the value of the system so that it would be a more enticing subject for sale.
That sale was completed Friday, with a Prior once again in the driver’s seat.
According to Friday’s news release, Innovative now will be in position to make new and sustained investments in its network in the U.S. Virgin Islands, while offering "affordable pricing, great technology, attractive service packages and an exceptional customer experience."
In the statement, Michael Prior acknowledged the "significant investments" made by the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation.
“We will build upon CFC’s work, integrating and enhancing Innovative’s strong foundation of advanced technology and services,” Prior said. “We see tremendous opportunity to bring our investment capacity and operations expertise to deliver greater value and to aggressively compete for the trust and business of our customers as we help take the business to the next level.”