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Malone Cable Empire Expands to Alaska

Mari Silbey
4/4/2017

Cable cowboy John Malone strikes again. Liberty Interactive, for which Malone serves as chairman of the board, announced plans this morning to acquire GCI and combine the Alaskan cable company with select assets and liabilities from Liberty Interactive's Liberty Ventures Group. The new business will be christened GCI Liberty. The remaining assets within the original Liberty Interactive entity will be renamed QVC Group, Inc.

According to Liberty Interactive, the deal with General Communication Inc. (GCI) (Nasdaq: GNCMA) has a total enterprise value of roughly $2.68 billion, and an equity value of around $1.12 billion. The new GCI Liberty business will trade under the ticker symbols GLIB on the Nasdaq exchange. The deal is expected to close by the first quarter of 2018, and after that time, management plans to call for a vote to relocate the company's headquarters from Alaska to Delaware. Liberty Interactive CEO Greg Maffei will take the reins of GCI Liberty, while current GCI CEO Ron Duncan will stay on at the company in a senior management role.

GCI is today the largest communications provider in Alaska. In addition to serving over 100,000 Internet and video subscribers each, the company also delivers wireless services to nearly 200,000 customers across the state. Annual revenue peaked in 2015 at $979 million, but dropped to $934 million in 2016. Adjusted EBITDA earnings have also declined recently, falling from $330 million in 2015 to $288 million at the end of last year. Data services are by far the largest contributor to GCI's revenue.


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The acquisition of GCI creates further consolidation in the cable industry and adds to the media and entertainment portfolios of both Malone and Maffei. In addition to Liberty Interactive, Malone and Maffei are chairman and CEO, respectively, of Liberty Broadband , which is the largest shareholder of Charter Communications Inc. , and Liberty Media Corp. (NYSE: LMC), which owns the Liberty SiriusXM Group, the Braves Group and the Formula One Group. Malone is also chairman of Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), where Mike Fries leads as CEO. one of the largest MSOs in the world, Liberty Global owns numerous European service provider companies, as well as telecom operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Once the GCI acquisition is complete, executives say they expect to realize new financial efficiencies and achieve "greater flexibility for future strategic acquisitions and combinations."

If Malone's history is any guide, that means there's more cable consolidation to come.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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