Central Electric Cooperative (CEC) announces that it has sold its ownership interest in LS Networks (LSN). The transaction closed on March 31 with CEC receiving approximately $50 million as its share of the sale proceeds.
CEC helped create LS Networks 15 years ago with a mission to bring top-tier bandwidth and fiber-optic network connectivity services throughout the Pacific Northwest. LS Networks was owned by CEC’s subsidiary, CEC Resources, and three other cooperative shareholders. The carrier-grade network has grown to 7,800 fiber miles serving large and small commercial and individual customers in rural and urban communities, including schools, governments, healthcare organizations and businesses.
“I am incredibly pleased to see the investment CEC made over the last 15 years in LSN prove financially rewarding for the co-op,” said CEC’s President and CEO Dave Markham, former chair of the LSN Board of Directors. “Timing is everything, and now was the opportunity for the co-op to monetize its investment after all these years,” he added.
In 2000, CEC formed CEC Resources consisting of for-profit companies offering propane and telecommunication products and services. Born out of necessity due to energy deregulation, which threatened to up-end the electric utility business model and create financial uncertainty, the subsidiaries allowed CEC to diversify and generate additional income streams.
William B. Keeton, CEC’s board chairman, recalls those early days. Keeton and fellow CEC board member Tom Strand, both board members at that time, stated, “The CEC board made the challenging but right decision for the co-op to invest in LSN.”
Fifteen years later, having stayed the course through some tumultuous times, the board’s foresight and intuition proved correct.
Dave Markham and CEC’s Chief Financial Officer Rawleigh White, who joined the LSN board in 2008, helped guide LSN through its challenging years and, eventually, on the path towards long-term growth and economic viability. They advocated for LSN to reconfigure its business model to aggressively fund and build out a “last mile” network to generate greater market penetration and stability. Over time, the investment and expansion into commercial, government, education, medical and wireless carrier business propelled LSN’s revenue upward over the last three years.
CEC Board Director Bill Rainey, who chairs CEC Resources, lent his 35 years of business and legal acumen to help navigate the sale’s complexities and deliver this significant achievement.
“The CEC Board of Directors’ prudent decision to sell LSN has enhanced the co-op’s long-term financial well-being,” said Rainey. “It was a privilege to take part in this effort.”