Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners said it would acquire Astound, the sixth-largest U.S. cable and broadband provider, from private equity firm TPG for $8.1 billion including debt.
TPG is selling the company, which serves over a million customers under the brands RCN, Grande, Wave and enTouch, after it built it up through a series of acquisitions starting in 2016.
“We are very eager and excited to partner with a premier investor such as Stonepeak to further accelerate our growth and take our companies to new levels of customer satisfaction and performance,” Astound Chief Executive Officer Jim Holanda said in a statement that confirmed an earlier Bloomberg News report.
Holanda and the rest of his management team at Patriot Media will keep running Princeton, New Jersey-based Astound after the second quarter, when the deal is expected to close.
Though U.S. consumers are shedding pay-TV bundles, high-speed internet service is more prized than ever. That’s led cable companies to increasingly focus on that side of the business — especially during the pandemic.
That strategy has paid off during the Covid-19 pandemic this year as internet subscriber growth has soared among the big cable operators, thanks partly to many people needing high-speed connections to work and learn from home.
Comcast Corp., the market leader, added 633,000 internet subscribers last quarter, a 67% jump. Charter Communications Inc., the second-largest cable company, had 537,000 new customers during the period, a gain of 41%.
The industry has been consolidating over the decades, leaving just a few cable giants — Comcast, Charter, Cox and Altice USA — to compete with telecom companies like AT&T and Verizon. Astound is a rival to these larger players in cities such as Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Washington.
An $8 billion deal would value Astound at almost $8,000 per broadband subscriber, Bloomberg Intelligence estimated in September. That would put it in the same range as Charter.
Stonepeak preempted a competitive auction that was supposed to conclude later this month, according to people familiar with the matter. It beat out a consortium of I Squared Capital and Blackstone Group, the people added. Blackstone declined to comment, while I Squared’s representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stonepeak, which specializes in infrastructure investments, is partway through raising a $10 billion fourth fund, and had amassed $6.2 billion for a first close in June, Bloomberg reported at the time. Trent Vichie, a co-founder of Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, is exiting the firm, Bloomberg News reported last month.
Vichie and Mike Dorrell founded Stonepeak in 2011 after previously heading Blackstone Group Inc.’s infrastructure business and working together at Macquarie Group Ltd.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley advised Astound while Bank of America Corp. and Lazard Ltd. advised Stonepeak.