Ridgemont forms J5 Infrastructure Partners

The buyout firm's merger of two western US-based telecom companies marks the first deal of its second fund.

Charlotte-based Ridgemont Equity Partners has formed J5 Infrastructure Partners through the acquisition and merger of two telecom companies.

The purchase of Cortel and TowerCom Technologies is the first investment by Ridgemont Private Equity Partners II, a fund the firm closed on $995 million in November. The vehicle had previously closed its maiden vehicle on $735 million in 2013. 

New York-based SR Capital Advisors is a co-investor alongside Ridgemont into J5 andplayed a key role in building relationships with Cortel and TowerCom. Debt financing – which includes capital for additional transactions – was arranged by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and provided by a consortium including Sun Trust Bank, MUFG Union Bank and US Bank. 

J5 will focus on site acquisition, leasing, permitting, zoning, structural engineering, utility coordination and equipment installations for clients including the top four wireless carriers in the US, according to a statement released by the firm. The company will also focus on small cells and distributed antenna systems, albeit on an opportunistic basis.   

The new entity was established with roughly 130 employees, according to Ridgemont principal Kurt Leedy. As part of its growth strategy, the platform looks to incorporate new services and densify its presence in the western US market through organic growth and acquisitions. 

Jerry Elliott , who has previously served on leadership teams at Leap/Cricket Wireless, Global Signal and Frontier Communications, was selected as J5's first chief executive. He will lead the company from its Orange County headquarters in California.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for growth in telecom infrastructure services and we intend to leverage the deep subject matter knowledge of the great teams at Cortel and TowerCom to identify new complementary services and markets,” Elliott said.  

Exponential creation of digital data and the need to transport information at high speeds created a solid case for the birth of J5, added Ridgemont principal Kurt Leedy. With larger operators squeezing out the middle market in terms of telecommunications infrastructure deals, Leedy said that moving into telecommunications services was a way that his team saw to maintain a firm footing in a sector “has not yet reached a plateau” despite years of strong growth.

While Ridgemont did not disclose the amount it invested to finance the merger, Leedy told Infrastructure Investor the J5 deal fell on the lower end of Fund II's $25-$100 million investment spectrum.