Funds affiliated with DigitalBridge Investment Management, DigitalBridge Group’s investment management platform, have reached a definitive agreement to acquire a controlling stake in Vertical Bridge Holdings, according to a statement from DigitalBridge. The statement said that Vertical Bridge is the largest private owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure in the United States.
“As the operator of the largest independent tower platform in the United States, Vertical Bridge is positioned to continue scaling rapidly, capitalizing on tower market growth opportunities driven by the strong tailwinds from enhanced data consumption and development of next-generation digital services that underpin investment in 5G networks and digital infrastructure to support IoT applications,” the statement reads. “Since its founding in 2014, Vertical Bridge has expanded its portfolio to include over 308,000 owned or master-leased sites, including over 8,000 towers across the United States.”
Steven Sonnenstein, senior managing director of DigitalBridge Investment Management, said that Vertical Bridge is the leading independent tower platform in the United States and is led by the preeminent tower management team in the industry.
“Significant acceleration in 5G infrastructure spending in the United States has created a tremendous long-term growth opportunity for telecommunications infrastructure and demonstrated that investments to support the next generation of mobility continue to be a powerful thematic,” Sonnenstein said. “By consolidating Vertical Bridge’s ownership via our fund management business, we will not only extend our long-standing relationship, but we will be even better positioned to support the Vertical Bridge team as they build on their market leadership and capitalize on exciting growth opportunities.”
Alex Gellman, chief executive officer of Vertical Bridge, said, “We have experienced significant, industry-leading growth at Vertical Bridge since our inception, scaling our platform to meet the evolving needs of our customers. This financial commitment not only positions Vertical Bridge to meet the rising demand for infrastructure solutions in light of new technologies, but also accelerates the substantial organic and inorganic growth opportunities available to us in this dynamic market. We look forward to continuing to work with the DigitalBridge team as we expand our asset portfolio to become a stronger and more agile partner serving the U.S. wireless and broadcast markets.”
J.P. Morgan Securities served as financial adviser to DigitalBridge Investment Management in connection with the transaction, and Vinson & Elkins served as legal counsel, according to the DigitalBridge statement. It said Goldman Sachs & Co. acted as financial advisor to Vertical Bridge, and Greenberg Traurig, LLP served as legal adviser. DigitalBridge said the transaction is subject to various regulatory approvals and is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2021. The company did not disclose the financial terms of the transaction.
In a related action, the Jordan Company — the infrastructure business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management — and Stonepeak Partners, founding shareholders in Vertical Bridge Holdings, sold their interests in Vertical Bridge following a seven-year investment. The companies did not disclose financial details of the sale.
In a prepared statement, Eion Hu, a partner at the Jordan Company, said, “We’re proud to have been part of the company’s journey since inception, which has been characterized by best-in-class leadership, substantial platform expansion and industry leading growth.” Leonard Seevers, a managing director in Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said, “We have really enjoyed partnering with the Vertical Bridge team on this journey and we wish them the best as they continue to drive growth and build value.” Brian McMullen, senior managing director at Stonepeak, said, “Our partnership with Alex and the Vertical Bridge team is the culmination of a long-held, shared conviction in the increasing criticality of wireless infrastructure and successful execution of our strategy in the sector.”
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor. Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.