Star Staff Reports
MARKED TREE, Ark. — Grain Management, a leading private equity firm investing in the global communications industry, together with E. Ritter and Company, announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire a majority stake in Ritter Communications. A leader among local independent communications providers in Tennessee and Arkansas, Ritter Communications offers internet, phone, video services and cloud solutions to business, residential and wholesale customers.
“Ritter Communications has a best-in-class network, an enviable market position, a proven management team and a strong heritage,” said Grain Founder and CEO, David J. Grain. “We appreciate the trust the Ritter family has placed in Grain as its preferred partner. Investing and partnering with companies like Ritter Communications is what we do best, and we are excited to be spearheading a plan for accelerated growth while preserving the Ritter Communications customer-oriented culture.”
Grain will invest in Ritter Communications with its current owner, E. Ritter and Company, whose family owners have led the business for five generations since it began providing local telephone service in 1906. Since then, Ritter Communications has evolved its offering to include a full suite of infrastructure-oriented communication services to enterprise and wholesale customers, while maintaining its unwavering dedication to the residential communities it has served for more than a century. Ritter Communications has invested over $100 million in local expansion over the last ten years and today boasts one of the largest, high-capacity fiber optic networks in the region.
“Our goal was to secure the company’s future by bringing in a majority investor and partner with industry expertise and a proven history in the communications sector; the Ritter family will retain positions on the board and continue to be involved,” said Ronda Ritter Ray, lead family director and fourth-generation Ritter family shareholder. “The business still represents a substantial portion of the E. Ritter and Company portfolio and our family is proud to see the company continue to use the Ritter brand that has served Arkansas communities for generations.”
Alan Morse, Ritter Communications president, said, “Our partnership with Grain Management will allow us to accelerate hiring and the expansion of our fiber network plans.” Morse added, “We have demonstrated we know how to grow the business. Grain Management recognized our proven track record and wanted the opportunity to partner with the Ritter family to grow the business and invest in what we’ve built here.”
With roots in the Arkansas community, Grain Managing Director Chad Crank cited Ritter Communications’ recently announced $7 million broadband fiber infrastructure project in Hot Springs, Arkansas and the construction of its state-of-the-art Data Technology Center on its campus in Jonesboro, Arkansas. “Ritter has exceptionally strong growth momentum,” said Crank. “We look forward to elevating that trajectory even further with Grain’s in-house knowledge and extensive track record in this industry, as well as our quantitative approach to value creation.”
The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Cowen and Company, LLC served as exclusive financial adviser to E. Ritter and Company and Ritter Communications in the transaction and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP served as legal counsel.
TD Securities served as financial advisor to Grain Management in the transaction and Alston & Bird LLP served as legal counsel.