After a bidding war that involved Dish Network, Altice USA, Ultra Mobile, a group led by Boost Mobile founder Peter Adderton and others, Chicago private equity company GTCR has purchased Consumer Cellular for around $2.3 billion.
Consumer Cellular is one of the country's biggest MVNOs with almost 4 million customers.
According to sources familiar with the transaction, the deal is expected to close by the end of this year. GTCR is set to acquire a majority interest in Consumer Cellular with existing shareholders retaining what has been described as a significant minority position.
Consumer Cellular will keep its current office and call center locations in Oregon and Arizona, but CEO John Marick will retire after the deal is finalized. Marick will be replaced by Ed Evans, a longtime wireless industry executive.
Consumer Cellular was founded in 1995 in Portland, Oregon, and now counts around 2,000 employees. The company will share a portion of the proceeds – roughly a year and a half worth of each employee's yearly salary – from the transaction with all of its employees.
As reported by Light Reading, Consumer Cellular put itself up for sale in August. The company drew interest from Dish Network, which bid almost $2 billion for the business.
Other bidders for Consumer Cellular included Boost founder Adderton, partnered with Marlin Equity, which stepped out of the process when prices reached around $1.6 billion. Civen, a UK private equity firm, also bid for the company. Cable companies including Altice and Comcast also expressed interest in the MVNO.
"Consumer Cellular has been the poster child for MVNO success, thanks to its laser focus on its targeted segment, which is older Americans," explained Jeffrey Moore of Wave7 Research, an analysis and consulting firm that carefully tracks the US wireless industry.
However, as GTCR steps into an ownership role in Consumer Cellular, it faces a tightening industry undergoing significant upheaval. For example, Dish recently snapped up both Boost Mobile and Ting, while Verizon acquired TracFone.
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