NuVox Inc., the last telecommunications company founded by prolific St. Louis entrepreneur Robert Brooks, agreed today to sell itself to Windstream Corp. of Little Rock, Ark. The purchase price is $643 million in cash, stock and assumed debt.
NuVox is what's known as a competitive local exchange carrier, meaning that it competes with the likes of AT&T to provide telecom services to businesses. Windstream is a phone company that operates in rural areas of 16 states; it was spun off from Alltel in 2006.
NuVox hasn't been based in St. Louis since 2004, when it merged with NewSouth Communications and moved its headquarters to Greenville, S.C. Still, the sale is a good excuse to revisit its history and that of its founder, Brooks.
Brooks founded Cencom Cable, a predecessor of today's Charter Communications, and sold it in 1991 for $1 billion. Then he built Brooks Fiber Properties, which sold to Worldcom in 1998 for $3 billion. Unwilling to rest on his laurels, he soon founded Gabriel Communications, which later became NuVox. Brooks died in 2000.
NuVox raised half a billion dollars of venture capital in its early years. It's done several mergers and acquisitions since then, so a $643 million sale price doesn't make it the same kind of home-run investment that Cencom or Brooks were. Still, NuVox survived the tech meltdown of 2000-2001 and went on to experience several more years of growth. It's a worthy final chapter for the Brooks business story.