New FiberLight CEO talks future with Morrison deal done

Newly-appointed CEO of FiberLight, Bill Major, is in agreement with Chief Strategy Officer, Ron Kormos, that the company has the unique shine of a diamond in the rough. That glint prompted the acquisition of FiberLight by New-Zealand based H.R.L. Morrison & Co, a deal which closed on April 20. Kormos told Fierce that the sale of FiberLight hovered in the neighborhood of close to a billion dollars.

The deal’s close has been a long-time coming. Around December 2021, talks started within FiberLight to find a potential buyer. Morrison came out of the woodwork as an unexpected suitor. While they did not have a telecom presence in the U.S, they had related holdings in Spain and Australia.

Morrison provided the highest offer to the FiberLight team around late February to early March of 2022, and a purchase agreement was in place by summer 2022. After elongated review process related to Morrison & Co.’s foreign ownership, all necessary approvals were secured by April 13, 2023.

“Morrison is actually leading a consortium. They are the main investor and then there are two secondary investors,” explained Kormos. “One is the Australian Teachers Fund, out of Australia, and the other one is UBS, which is the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS). So....all of this is a pension fund purchase… H.R.L. Morrison is....currently managing close to $20 billion dollars in pension fund assets.”

Due to this arrangement, both UBS and the Australian Teachers Fund will be on the board of FiberLight with Morrison & Co.

Part of what drew Morrison & Co. to FiberLight were opportunities the company could capitalize on with the right amount of capital investment. With 17,000 route miles and twenty years of experience, it was clear that FiberLight could grow significantly. “Other telecom companies or investors, they always looked at the past instead of at the future,” noted Kormos.

Major concurred. “[FiberLight] is a blank canvas… Morrison’s fund is a perpetual fund, [so we’re] looking to continually invest with great returns.”

While no major projects are currently underway right now for FiberLight, the executive team has their eye on multiple RFPs of interest. The first priority on the list is expanding legacy connectivity in Texas around Austin, San Antonio and Houston. Kormos knows that FiberLight is on the shortlist for middle-mile grants in these regions specifically.

They’re also in talks with other companies in Virginia for further expansion across the state. One strategic focus for the team moving forward is to steer away from one-time revenue and focus on monthly, recurring funds. “There will be a lot of stuff coming out in the next six months,” said Kormos, including a new state going live in the next thirty days alone.

Other industry factors at play that could seriously benefit FiberLight is the fact that hyperscalers are starting to shift north and south outside of Virginia. Thus, the next center of commercial broadband construction and activity may be where FiberLight is headquartered: Atlanta, Georgia.

But this isn’t where the opportunities stop, especially if it’s up to Major. “We will be opportunistic from an M&A standpoint to expand our footprint,” he told Fierce.

Major officially joined the FiberLight team as CEO on April 20 with robust experience in operational efficiency and sales in his previous roles. “We took Everstream in 2015 from 30 employees and 2,000 miles to 27,000 miles....and 360 employees” in 2023, said Major. The previous CEO of FiberLight, Chris Rabii, agreed to move on to other opportunities effective immediately.

When the dust of the acquisition settles, Major predicts that one year from now, FiberLight will be the dominant regional fiber provider. But more than that, Major is focused on building an exceptional team. “I want to build a culture. We can have a great strategy, but if we don’t have…the right people, we won’t be successful. We want to be the place everyone wants to work. [A customer’s] experience [is not just] external, but internal.”

To support this endeavor, Major is currently hunting for a Vice President of People and Culture to spearhead Human Resources efforts.

Kormos agrees. “[In the next] 12 months, [our goal is] not growing X this, it’s making an impact in the industry [by] how easy it is to work with us. [We want to] streamline internal processes, expand more, bring in other companies,” he concluded.


4/24/2023 1:19 pm ET: The editors have corrected references in this story to the California State Teachers Retirement System as well as Everstream's growth.