Brooks Gets Back In

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Cable veteran John Brooks has established a new link to the industry.

Brooks, most recently executive vice president of Broadstripe, formerly Millennium Digital Media, has formed NuLink and with a financial assist from Halyard Capital purchased the cable assets of Newnan Utilities, the municipally-owned utility in Newnan, Ga.

The $70 million transaction, which closed April 21, was financed by Halyard, the New York-based private equity firm, and by Brooks, who serves as chairman and CEO.

NEWNAN SALE

NuLink acquired the video and high-speed data businesses from Newnan Utilities, which also provides water, electrical and sewer services to Coweta County, a growing region about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta. The primary cable competitors in the area are Comcast and Charter Communications.

NuLink would not disclose the number of video and high-speed subscribers it acquired from Newnan.

Newnan developed a fiber network in 1995 and began providing video and high-speed services two years later in the region, which Brooks says is experiencing housing growth and benefiting economically from the recent opening of a Kia factory, about 20 miles to the south.

He called the 750-Megaherz plant state of the art and believes NuLink, which retained the utility's 30 employees engaged in the video and data disciplines, will gain traction through enhanced customer service.

“It's been my experience over the years that the best thing you can do is to offer top-quality services and then provide the best customer experience possible. You want to let the people know you are proud to serve them,” said Brooks, who prior to working at Broadstripe/Millennium, which he co-founded in 1998, was co-founder and senior executive of competitive telecommunications services provider Brooks Fiber Properties.

He began his career at Cencom Cable Associates, a St. Louis-based cable operator with some 550,000 subscribers in 16 states.

NuLink, working with Atlanta ad firm Eye to Eye, expects to unveil a new logo this week and soon affix it to its truck fleet.

NuLink — which has communicated the change to Newnan customers via direct mail — will also herald its arrival via billboards and other area signage, Brooks said.

NuLink will also open a retail center in Newnan, where customers can pay their bills, exchange equipment and sample services.

The first major order of business is developing a stand-alone billing platform. Brooks, who is looking for staff in the financial and marketing departments, said he's evaluating vendors and hopes to have the conversion completed by the end of the third quarter.

Similarly, he'll assess vendors as the company looks to launch voice-over-Internet protocol phone service and video-on-demand applications later in 2008.

The addition of a voice product will push NuLink into the “triple play” game, which will not only appeal to residential customers, but is designed to expand its commercial services opportunities as well.

Firming up NuLink's high-definition channel lineup, currently a 21-channel offering for $12.95 monthly, will be a 2009 initiative.

“There's absolutely growth there too, as flat screens become less expensive,” he said.

Newnan claimed to be the first video provider in Georgia to offer digital video recorder functionality.

The company's expanded-basic offering, encompassing 80 channels, retails for $39.75 per month, while its top digital package extends to 125 networks, plus 45 music channels for $57.85.

EXPANSION EYED

Brooks said he was approached by Halyard in “late January, early February,” to assume the leadership role with the new company.

“We look forward to partnering with John Brooks and believe his experienced leadership will contribute to the company's continued success,” Halyard principal Michael Furey said in a statement. “NuLink has achieved a local market leadership position and is well-positioned for further growth.”

Brooks said that after the Newnan acquisition settles in, he and Halyard will look for other acquisition opportunities in the southeast.

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