Grain Management to Acquire Majority Stake in Ritter Communications

Grain Management to Acquire Majority Stake in Ritter Communications
Ritter Communications broke ground in May on its $8 million cloud and data storage facility in Jonesboro. (Ritter Communications)

Ritter Communications of Jonesboro has found its partner.

The independent, family-owned telecommunications and cloud services provider said Tuesday that Grain Management, a private equity company, has agreed to acquire a majority stake in the business as Ritter looks to expand.

The companies said in a news release that Grain will invest in Ritter with its current owner, E. Ritter and Co. of Marked Tree, whose family owners have led the business since it began providing local telephone service in 1906. 

Financial terms of the deal, set to close in the fourth quarter, were not disclosed. Arkansas Business reported in May that Ritter was seeking an investment partner.

In addition to its residential business, Ritter offers a suite of infrastructure-oriented communication services to enterprise and wholesale customers. It has invested more than $100 million in local expansion over the last decade and says it operates one of the largest, high-capacity fiber optic networks in the region.

"Our goal was to secure the company's future by bringing in a majority investor and partner with industry expertise and a proven history in the communications sector; the Ritter family will retain positions on the board and continue to be involved," lead family director Ronda Ritter Ray said. "The business still represents a substantial portion of the E. Ritter and Company portfolio and our family is proud to see the company continue to use the Ritter brand that has served Arkansas communities for generations."

With offices in Washington, D.C., and Sarasota, Florida, Grain Management specializes in investments in global communications. It was founded in 2007.

"Ritter Communications has a best-in-class network, an enviable market position, a proven management team and a strong heritage," Grain Founder and CEO David J. Grain said. "We appreciate the trust the Ritter family has placed in Grain as its preferred partner. 

"Investing and partnering with companies like Ritter Communications is what we do best, and we are excited to be spearheading a plan for accelerated growth while preserving the Ritter Communications customer-oriented culture."

Alan Morse, Ritter Communications' president, said, said Grain's investment will allow the company to "accelerate hiring and the expansion of our fiber network plans." 

"We have demonstrated we know how to grow the business," Morse said. "Grain Management recognized our proven track record and wanted the opportunity to partner with the Ritter family to grow the business and invest in what we've built here."

Ritter operates an enterprise-services, fiber optic network across Arkansas and western Tennessee and provides residential voice, video and broadband service in several markets. 

E. Ritter & Co. reported 2018 revenue of $109.2 million, ranking No. 73 on Arkansas Business' most recent list of the state's largest private companies. Its subsidiaries include Ritter Communications and Ritter Agribusiness.

Founded in Marked Tree, Ritter began providing local phone service in the early 1900s. In addition to its Jonesboro headquarters, the company has offices in Marked Tree, Searcy, Jasper, Blytheville, Harrison, Little Rock; Millington, Tennessee and Munford, Tennessee.

Ritter recently broke ground on an $8 million, 8,882-SF cloud and data storage center next to its headquarters in Jonesboro, signaling its intent to extend service beyond larger population centers. In February, it announced a $7 million infrastructure project to underpin a high-tech communications and business services system in Hot Springs.

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