Two cell tower industry veterans, Tom Remillard and Jim Rech, have teamed with Peppertree Capital Management to form Blue Sky Towers, which will focus on developing and managing wireless infrastructure with an interesting mix. Two-thirds of the sites will be on rooftops, and the other third will be new towers.
“We want to be a specialist in cell site densification, which is where we see a lot of opportunity right now, as a lot of the growth is in the urban core, and there is a need for assets,” Remillard said. “With small cell development, outdoor DAS, the key components to the wireless ecosystem are existing rooftops.”
Remillard is CEO of the new company. He was formerly principal of Wireless Realty Advisors. Rech is president. He was formerly vice president of development at Global Tower Partners, which sold its U.S. tower portfolio to American Tower.
Peppertree Capital Management, which is an equity investor in Horvath Towers, committed $80 million in debt and equity financing to Blue Sky Towers to fund 700 to 800 cellular sites in the next five years. Rooftops in the top 20 metropolitan areas and tower development in the peripheral markets will be Blue Sky’s focus.
“We are already on the ground corralling real estate owners in these areas,” Remillard said. “Rooftop development is reflective of where carriers are voicing the need. We want to help the carriers solve the problem of building out a network on existing rooftops in urban areas.”
Remillard said that rooftops have many of the same obstacles as tower site development, including zoning, permitting and leasing.
“Instead of planting steel in the ground, you are putting thousands of pounds on a rooftop. You have to deal with structural issues and in-building conduit and getting fiber to a facility, which is unique to rooftop deployments,” he said.
Cell Tower Development
While Blue Sky won’t shy away from creative, opportunistic acquisitions, the focus of its fund is building new towers.
“We feel like there is already a lot of money out there chasing tower aggregation,” Rech said. “Moving forward, development of new towers is really our sole focus, similar to my focus at GTP.”
Build-to-suit contracts will be a big focus in Blue Sky’s new tower development.
“I spent a lot of time at GTP developing relationships will all the carriers. We will also do rooftop-to-suit, reconditioning the rooftops to make it easier for them to deploy,” Rech said.
Currently, Blue Sky has 10 employees with a plan to expand to 30 in the near future. It will outsource all parts and construction of the sites through relationships with local markets. At the end of five years or when it hits its cell site goal, the company will assess the possibility of a tower sale.
Rech joins other GTP alumni jumping back into wireless infrastructure development. Dagan Kasavana, who ran the mergers and acquisitions department for Global Tower Partners, has started his own venture, Phoenix Tower International, focusing on acquiring, developing, owning, leasing and operating cell towers in Latin America. Meanwhile, Marc Ganzi, former GTP CEO, is plotting his next moves through his wireless infrastructure investment firm, Digital Bridge Management.
Proving there is life after GTP, Dagan Kasavana, who ran the mergers and acquisitions department for Global Tower Partners, has started his own venture, focusing on acquiring, developing, owning, leasing and operating cell towers in Latin America. The company, known as Phoenix Tower International, was formed to focus on middle market transactions.
Of the major markets in Latin America, Phoenix Tower will be looking for opportunities in stable countries that already have public and private tower companies.
“There are key markets in Central and South America that are good for tower ownership,” Kasavana said. “Brazil is an interesting market,where wireless growth and penetration are projected to be fueled over the next three to five years, but so are Columbia, Panama and Costa Rica.
“Growth is projected throughout the region, and we have the ability to capture some of the upside, which is similar to what we have seen in the United States in the last three to five years,” he added.
Since Global Tower Partners sold its portfolio, Kasavana has considered opportunities running M&A programs for various tower companies as well as going it on his own. “I talked with investors who supported this concept for a new tower company that is focused on select opportunities [in Latin America] that others are not,” he said.
In forming Phoenix, Kasavana has brought in several colleagues from his days at GTP. Former GTP Senior Legal Advisor Tim Culver has joined Phoenix in a similar position. Natalya Kashirina, who worked with Kasavana in GTP’s M&A department, is now Phoenix vice president, mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, Orlando Porras, formerly of Ernst and Young, who did many projects for GTP, is now chief financial officer for Phoenix.
Kasavana plans to deal with the cultural challenges of Latin America by using a personal touch. Phoenix will remain based in Boca Raton, Fla., but will build offices in a region as it gains significant market share there. “We are well suited to address these challenges because we don’t see these as satellite offices leveraging off of the U.S. presence. We are going to build them from the ground up, leveraging the local people, the local customers and local operations. And I will be on a plane regularly to meet with them personally,” he said.
A variety of equity investors are involved in Phoenix, which will be formally announced in the near future. The company has a number of transactions in the works and is working to close them.
“At GTP, we had a great run, and it is really fun to see [the former GTP partners] all blossom into new business lines to do new things after the sale,” Kasavana said. “Obviously, we learned a lot of that from Marc Ganzi [former CEO of GTP]. I owe him a lot of credit for instilling the entrepreneurial spirit within me. It is something I take with me going forward.”