Life After Alltel: Businesses Rise From Ashes

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, May. 4, 2009 12:00 am  

Kevin Halpin, left, and Mike Stafford are using the skills they gained at Alltel to launch their own company, the Customer Experience Group.

As the name that once represented one of Arkansas’ largest companies fades into the background, several new businesses have emerged from the pool of talent that flooded the market when Verizon Wireless completed its purchase of Alltel Corp. of Little Rock earlier this year.

Arkansas’ two largest deals ever — the $27.5 billion go-private sale of Alltel in 2007 to TPG Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and the recent $28.1 billion flip to Verizon — left several members of Alltel’s upper management with mountainous fortunes.

The recent start-ups of several investment firms suggest they don’t plan to just sit on their wealth.

Former Alltel CEO Scott Ford and his father, former Alltel Chairman Joe Ford, have formed the investment  firm Westrock Capital Partners LLC with Richard Massey, former chief strategy officer and general counsel at Alltel.

The go-private sale in 2007 left a paper trail of Securities & Exchange Commission breadcrumbs that revealed how much many of the key Alltel players made that year. Ford went home with about $150 million, and Massey cleared about $50 million. And that’s not mentioning the accumulated wealth of Joe Ford.

Westrock Capital invests in public and private securities and provides financial advisory services in media, communications and technology, in addition to a few other industries.

William “Goose” Changose, a former senior exec at Alltel, is the company’s chief administrative officer.

Other key players at Alltel have formed a similar investment company called the Circumference Group. Led by former Alltel Chief Operating Officer Jeff Fox, the Circumference Group will function as “a value-added co-investor,” Fox said.

“We’re going to do consulting and co-invest with larger investors. And we’re going to use our experience in operating to try to add value.”

After the sale of Alltel to the two private equity firms in 2007, Fox cleared more than $70 million.

Unlike Westrock Capital, the Circumference Group will stick to investments in technology and telecommunications only.

“I think that being able to help folks that are buying and investing in businesses is a pretty natural fit,” said Fox, who oversaw more than $80 billion in mergers and acquisitions at Alltel. “And my experience is that good operators are complementary to good investors.” He added that the company already has generated revenue.

“I believe that there are investors out there in the market that can get excited about operators co-investing with them.”



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