Gates and Knight-backed Oak Hill Capital continues to pull cable industry strings with MetroNet investment

Bill Gates / drug discovery software
Billionaire investor Bill Gates is part of the Oak Hill Capital Partners group backing MetroNet's entry into Lexington, Kentucky.

Last week, an Indiana network builder seized the opportunity of Charter Communications’ integration troubles in Lexington, Ky., promising the local city council that it would spend as much as $70 million over the next three years to run fiber to 90,000 Lexington-area homes and businesses. 

With Lexington residents, newspaper columnists and city council members fuming over Charter’s service to the region, Lexington’s gleeful mayor, Jim Gray, put it in seasonal terms, noting, “Santa Claus is coming to town.” For his part, MetroNet President John Cinelli would not disclose the name of the private equity partner that’s backing Santa’s sleigh.

RELATED: Charter gets competition in Lexington, Kentucky, as angry city enlists Indiana’s MetroNet to build FTTH network

Turns out, MetroNet has some pretty powerful backers: Oak Hill Equity Partners, a private equity firm with a billionaire investor roster that includes Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Nike czar Phil Knight. 

Oak Hill is well known in the telecom industry, with an investments roster that includes not only MetroNet, but also WideOpenWest, Atlantic Broadband, Wave Broadband, FirstLight Fiber and Cincinnati Bell. 

Oak Hill has was founded by 1980s leveraged buyout impresario Robert Bass back in 1986. But the firm, relocated from Fort Worth, Texas, to Manhattan, picked up celebrity-investor heat in 2005 when Gates and Knight joined in. 

The firm says that it has invested $9.5 billion across 85 private equity transactions since 1986.