Highwinds CEO Steve Miller talks about BandCon buy, and his new president, Steve Liddell

It's been a busy week for Highwinds, the Winter Park, Fla.-based content delivery network and network services company. On Wednesday, chairman and CEO Steve Miller announced he had handed over his "president" title to telecom industry vet Steve Liddell, a move he described as necessary for the company to continue to grow. On Thursday, Highwinds announced it had reached a deal to acquire BandCon, a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Internet infrastructure service provider that effectively doubled its network capacity in the U.S.

Miller said the purchase, for stock and cash, was made possible by the company's refinancing its senior debt earlier this year, and hinted at more M&A activity for Highwinds in the months ahead.

The two Steves took time to chat with FierceOnlineVideo about the changes at Highwinds, and what was ahead from M&A to expansion and how they would move the company forward.

FierceOnlineVideo: Why Steve Liddell at Highwinds? Why'd it take you until now to give away that "president's title?"

Steve Miller: There are just not enough hours in the day. The reality is that growing a business to $50 million is one thing, but now as we approach $100 million and beyond, it's another. Steve is a polished telecom executive that has done it before. One thing that I've learned is that you have to surround yourself with people that are better than you who can help you take it to the next level and who will ensure success.

Highwinds CDNFierceOnlineVideo: How much control do you hand over?

Miller: I'm still very much engaged, in fact probably more so than Steve Liddell wants me to be, I'm trying to take my hands off the operational reins a little bit, but we've got a lot to do around here. Everything from international expansion efforts, which we'll announce down the road, to P&L control of our content delivery and network services business, to looking at M&A, to operating a business that has close to 200 employees.

FierceOnlineVideo: When did you decide to hire Steve?

Miller: I really knew that - kind of toward the middle of last year - that I needed to start looking for bench strength to help scale this thing. Steve also brings a big Rolodex with him. He's recruiting operational executives, engineering executives that will help us scale even further.

FierceOnlineVideo: Steve Liddell, what do you bring to Highwinds?

Steve Liddell: Some people like to call me a grizzled old veteran because I've been around the telecom industry for about the last 25 years. I was one of the very early members of Level 3 Communications and I ran Asia Pacific for Level 3 and for MFS -- which became MCI WorldCom in the heydays of the ‘80s -- and I've done a lot of work over the past few years for private equity and venture capital firms investing into the telecom and Internet space.

FierceOnlineVideo: You were CEO at Panther...

Liddell: In the last public position I held I had to go in as CEO of Panther, which was a CDN that was in serious trouble in 2008 and really had to make a lot of changes there and fix it up, and sell it off to CDNetworks of Korea. But most of my career I've been really growing and scaling businesses from the sort of $100 million up to the $600 million to $700 million mark which is where I grew the Asian businesses of the companies I mentioned earlier. That was really my sweet spot: building the right teams, building the bench strength for the next phase of growth for these companies.

FierceOnlineVideo: How'd you come to Highwinds?

Liddell: I met with Steve (Miller) probably a year or 18 months ago when we were divesting Panther and liked the team here a lot and liked the growth story and we've kept in contact. I knew that at the right time this was a great place to be. It's a very, very high growth, very profitable company with a low cost of delivery over a large network going through some international expansion -- which is where I have a lot of background -- and going through a number of M&A transactions.

It seemed like a very good fit. They needed some bench strength to help take it to the next level.

FierceOnlineVideo: Compare this to your work at Panther.

Liddell: This is a very different situation than Panther. The two main investors there Greylock and Index knew that they had a problem and we had to make some... Continued

Click here for Part 2 of this interview

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