Conuma Cable Systems LTD.

For forty years, Conuma Cable Systems Ltd. delivered cable and internet services to Gold River and Tahsis on north Vancouver Island. Conuma was acquired by TELUS in 2019 in a unique package deal initiated and successfully facilitated by Stage Left Partners.

A Changing Market

When Linda Falkenberg decided it was time to sell her cable and internet company, Conuma Cable Ltd., to a major industry player, she wasn’t so sure her remote subscriber base would be interesting to a larger buyer. Stage Left Partners’ offered a unique approach, packaging Conuma with four other regional cable companies enabling a deal to be completed that ensured satisfaction for her long-time customer base, as well as the retirement nest egg she was hoping for.

Conuma served Tawhais and Golden River, two small towns in the north of Vancouver Island, for forty years after Falkenberg acquired it in the mid-eighties. Coming from a long career of self-employment, Conuma was to be her retirement package, making the sale of her company a high stakes deal.

Falkenberg had been watching the cable and communications business change dramatically for years, with new tech coming in, declining cable subscriptions and drastic increases in demand for internet bandwidth. In its remote location, Conuma just didn’t have the broadband necessary to keep up with those demands. And it didn’t make sense, financially, to attempt to keep up with the changes. She knew that it was time to bring in the major players.

Selling a Remote Business – Not an Easy Proposition

Would she be able to find a buyer? Falkenberg knew it was the right time to sell—because of their challenges acquiring appropriate bandwidth, it was becoming more and more difficult to provide their customers with the highest levels of service. Also, their special location, remote with two small service areas, meant that their subscriber base was on the smaller side.

Falkenberg feared that even if she was prepared to sell, it would be next to impossible to entice a major entity to be interested in acquiring such small systems. That was where Stage Left came in with a unique proposition.

“If you want to have a smooth transaction, and successful completion of the transaction, get Stage Left onboard. They’ll work diligently for you, they’ll listen to you, they’ll represent you very well. I highly, highly recommend them.”

Stage Left approached Falkenberg with their proposition in April of 2019. They had been working with four other smaller-sized cable companies in B.C. to prepare a package deal to present to TELUS for acquisition.

From Transaction to Final Signature

Stage Left had done their homework—initial talks with TELUS had been completed and it had been established that the industry giant was interested in new subscribers from other parts of B.C.—and they wanted them fast.

When Stage Left contacted Falkenberg with their proposition, she was impressed with their knowledge of the situation and the market. She saw the value in the package deal right away.

TELUS would be able to deal with one entity rather than four. And most importantly for her, they would be far more likely to show interest in a larger offering and she would have a far greater chance of getting a deal done this way. “I don’t think, on an individual basis, my sale would have gone through, if I had been just representing myself,” Falkenberg says.

From step one, she was impressed with Stage Left’s professionalism. “Right from the very start, they were so organized,” she says. They were immediately lined up with a legal firm who had experience dealing with TELUS, a very valuable move, and were sensitive to the needs of their clients from the get-go.

They listened to the separate concerns of Conuma and the other companies and treated them individually, while TELUS only had to deal with one overall entity. By acting as liaison, Stage Left ensured that both sides of the deal had the smoothest transaction possible.

Even under a shortened timeline—a transaction which normally takes four to six months was completed in just 60 days—Stage Left delivered, putting in seemingly endless hours of work to accommodate the needs of four separate companies, as well as keeping TELUS engaged.

“They were patient, they were respectful, they listened to our concerns and they resolved them. And they kept TELUS happy. They guided us so smoothly through everything.”

Conuma was inundated with documents from TELUS, Falkenberg says. But Stage Left was able to organize everything into efficient timeframes and kept everyone focused on the task at hand, reducing stress and preventing us from being overwhelmed.

After 60 days of complicated, intense negotiation involving five separate entities, all with specific priorities and desired outcomes, the deal was closed successfully on June 30th, 2019.

Beyond the Deal

Stage Left initiated a slow takeover with TELUS, with the two companies working together on the transition, ensuring that subscribers would feel the change as little as possible.

And the transition period was as smooth as could be, with very little follow-up required.

“The transaction was completed so efficiently, there were hardly any follow up situations. We had two holdback clauses with TELUS, one has been completed already, and that took one email. They had everything lined up perfectly, it was amazing.”

With every transaction, there are hiccups, but Falkenberg struggles to pinpoint any weak points in her experience with Stage Left. “They were so knowledgeable in the transaction. They knew what to expect from TELUS, they knew how to handle the situation. I don’t think they could have done anything better at all.”

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