Founded by William Marraccini, Sweetwater’s managing partner, AAT Communications was the largest privately-owned communications tower company in the United States, growing to own and operate approximately 1,850 towers by the time of its sale. AAT had a national footprint with five regional offices. AAT was actively engaged in the development of towers from the ground up and also had significant operations involved in managing antenna sites for third parties. In addition to its owned towers, AAT managed approximately 5,000 sites for building owners, railroads, and public land owners such as the state of [Michigan]. AAT was sold to SBA Communications (Nasdaq: SBAC) in 2006.
AAT RSA acquired a rural cellular license covering parts of Alabama through an FCC spectrum auction in 1995. At that time, most rural cellular licensees constructed networks strictly as wholesale providers, i.e., to allow subscribers of national carriers to roam on their networks. By contrast, under the leadership of William Marraccini, AAT RSA made the investment of time and effort to build a wireless carrier serving its region. AAT RSA recruited a management team, opened sales offices and incurred marketing costs to build a large base of subscribers. The company was sold in 1998 to Triton Communications. The acquirer kept on almost the entire executive management team and sales organization after the acquisition.
Formed in 2004, NewPath was a pioneer in the rapidly growing area of Distributed Antenna Systems, or DAS. DAS allows wireless carriers to locate antennas on structures such as utility poles in those areas, such as populous suburban settings, where obtaining a permit for a large tower would be impossible. NewPath had a talented management team led by Mike Kavanagh and Shawn Cooprider. The company successfully built and operated multi-carrier DAS networks in over a dozen major U.S. metropolitan areas. NewPath was sold to Crown Castle International (NYSE: CCI) in 2010 and both Kavanagh and Cooprider were asked to remain with Crown Castle.
Central States Tower Holdings
Sweetwater formed Central States Tower Holdings (“CST”) in 2006, backing a management team led by Brian Meier and William Wade, former longtime executives of AT&T Mobility. Sweetwater has provided capital and business experience to help Meier and Wade create a large and durable long-term business platform. Over 13 years, CST and its successors (CST II, III, and IV) have built, owned and operated over 500 towers, relying primarily on a strategy of constructing new tower sites for leading national wireless carriers. CST was sold to American Tower Corporation (NYSE:AMT) in 2010; CST II and CST III were sold to SBA Communications (Nasdaq: SBAC) in 2015 and 2018, respectively. CST IV is a current portfolio company of Sweetwater.
BTA Ventures was an investment vehicle which acquired certain F Block PCS spectrum in the FCC auctions in 1996. The spectrum was sold to AT&T Mobility in 2012.
Formed in 2004, Biltmore was a so-called triple-play communications provider in the Southeast, providing voice, video and internet services to subscribers in high-end multi-residential developments. Biltmore was a pioneer in using Internet Protocol to provide video services. Biltmore was sold to an affiliate of Hicks Holdings in 2007.
Sweetwater invested in NewTel, an international Competitive Local Exchange Carrier, in 2003. NewTel had operations in the U.S., Australia, Ireland, Switzerland and Spain and grew to over 150,000 customers. Sweetwater backed a management team led by Elam Baer which had tremendous commercial and retail marketing experience both domestically and overseas. The regional businesses of NewTel were sold in a series of transactions in 2004 and 2005.