The rumour-mill is working overtime following the revelation that Clear Communications may have been sold to a consortium made up of US-based investor group Berkshire Partners, Jump Investment and the Todd Corporation.
Speculation about the value of the sale depends on the source of the rumour: one rival telco puts the price of the deal at $450 million, while one analyst says $300 million. Whether this is for all of Clear, or only a controlling interest, is not certain. Rumour also puts the price British Telecom paid for Clear at around $1 billion.
Clear spokesman Ralph Little had no comment on the sale - his boss Peter Kaliaropoulos yesterday said Clear management would not necessarily be informed of any deal as that would be handled by the shareholder, BT. Public relations company Hill and Knowlton, which represents BT in the region, also would not comment on the sale and could not find a BT spokesperson willing to talk on the record.
Calls to BT’s 24-hour a day media relations hotline were met by voicemail - outside GMT hours of 9am to 5pm the hotline is unstaffed. Calls to Berkshire Partners in Boston also went unanswered.
Berkshire Partners was an original investor in Tranz Rail when it was sold off. Berkshire, according to an article in the Boston Globe, has a history of investing in “new economy” companies as much as in traditional areas like waste management and retailers. Berkshire claims its $US65 million investment in Crown Castle, a company that owns and operates cellular towers, has returned “at least” $US750 million.
“The partners at Berkshire are not Luddites. They acknowledge the Internet has huge implications” says the Globe.
Last year Jump Capital took part in the government's 2Ghz spectrum auction, although it pulled out and ended the auction without buying the rights to any of the available slots.
According to the New Zealand Herald it also walked away from a deal with Wilson Neill subsidiary Radionet, which would have seen Jump pumping $8 million into the wireless company. Jump's backers include merchant bankers Michael Fay and David Richwhite.
Todd Corporation is listed in National Business Review's annual Rich List as one of New Zealand's richest family-owned companies.