GreatLand Connections: The Cable Company That Never Was

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Chief Executive Officer Michael Willner
“I was very excited to build a cable company from scratch in the 21st century,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Willner said in a telephone interview. Photographer: Scott Saltzman/Bloomberg

Rest in peace, GreatLand Connections Inc. We hardly knew ye.

A cable company that would’ve been the fifth-largest in the U.S., GreatLand was a by product of Comcast Corp.’s now scrapped takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc. To help convince regulators to approve the deal, Comcast was going to sell 2.5 million subscribers to the new publicly traded company.

Now it will never exist. Along with Comcast’s $45.2 billion bid withdrawal for Time Warner Cable comes the dissolution of a cable company that never got off the ground. GreatLand would have served customers in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

“I was very excited to build a cable company from scratch in the 21st century,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Willner said in a telephone interview. “I thought it would be the only opportunity that anyone would ever have to build a cable company in this century. Working with the guys at Charter and Comcast was invigorating. I think we would have served our customers well.”

The company would have ranked behind Comcast, Charter, Cox Communications Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corp. The projected value of the company based on mean enterprise value per subscriber would have been about $14 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

‘Impressive Team’

And with its collapse comes the loss of jobs, including GreatLand’s senior employees: Willner, Executive Vice President Leonard Baxt, Executive Vice President Keith Hall and Senior Vice President Michele Roth. GreatLand also was hiring dozens of other employees contingent on deal approval, Willner said.

Chief Financial Officer Matthew Siegel joined GreatLand from Time Warner Cable earlier this year, where he was a senior vice president and treasurer. He’ll be keeping his job at Time Warner Cable now that the deal isn’t going through.

Willner was a co-founder and CEO of Insight Communications Co. from 1985 through 2012, when Insight was sold to Time Warner Cable.

Willner said he was surprised and disappointed Comcast’s deal with Time Warner Cable was withdrawn without a clear explanation from the government about its specific concerns.

“The FCC talked about public interest but hasn’t explained what wasn’t being satisfied,” he said. “This process took 14 months. Companies make significant plans and people’s careers are affected and impacted. They make decisions to go other places and do new things as a result of the transaction. And then after 14 months it ends, and no one quite knows why.”

Willner hasn’t thought about his next steps yet, but there’s one thing he’ll definitely be doing: getting drinks with his team.

“This team was so impressive,” he said. “Maybe one day, in this industry or another, we can make it happen again.”

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