Seven deep pocketed suitors, reportedly including Liberty Media Chairman/cable icon John Malone, have anted up to Providence Equity Partners' $1 billion minimum to buy Bresnan Cable.
In addition to Malone, sources say Cablevision Systems (whose stock was hammered just over the hint of the deal, proving that owning more cable systems is not everyone's cup of tea), Charter Communications, which last year emerged from bankruptcy and Suddenlink Communications are also in the running for the MSO. Previous reports also listed cable competitors Knology as in the running for the MSO in which Comcast is a minority owner. Bresnan is headquartered in New York State but has 320,000-plus subscribers in remote areas of Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah.
Such active interest in an MSO with so many non-metro customers is somewhat of a surprise in some cases; Malone's interest is not. The Liberty chairman has reportedly been on the prowl for more acquisitions in Europe, where Liberty is very active and he's reportedly ready to move back into the U.S cable market he once ruled.
Malone, who recently announced plans to depart as DirecTV's chairman, has had an interesting and agreeable working relationship with Comcast over the years. Cablevision's interest is a bit more puzzling. The Long Island-based MSO has pretty much consolidated itself in the New York metro area, including Connecticut and Northern New Jersey, where it's been in a fierce battle with Verizon's FiOS TV. It's unclear why the MSO would want to expand into the boondocks of Bresnan's franchise areas. Suddenlink has been in the market to gobble up cable properties and for Knology, if it's still interested, it would be a good way to expand a footprint with smaller cable operations.
Speaking of acquisitions, it's not quite as big a blip on the radar as Bresnan, but Time Warner Cable has acquired the Charter Communications cable system in Oconto, Wis.
Six enter bidding for Bresnan Communications
Bresnan price tag set at $1 billion, including debt