CLINTON — Bell Industries Inc., based in El Segundo, Calif., gained not only a business, but a presence in Mississippi earlier this month, when it decided to acquire SkyTel Corp. of Clinton for $23 million, pending federal approval.
SkyTel is a unit of the former MCI that New York-based Verizon acquired earlier in 2006. It provides nationwide wireless service and support, including e-mail, interactive two-way messaging, wireless telemetry services and traditional text and numeric paging. Revenues over the past 12 months totaled more than $100 million.
Bell Industries, founded in 1952, agreed to purchase substantially all of the assets and assume certain liabilities in an agreement announced November 14 in a news release. The company provides technological support for business clients.v
“This transaction is in keeping with our objective of providing additional growth vehicles for expanding our reach beyond technology management and support services to wireless solutions,” said John Fellows, chief executive officer of Bell Industries in a statement.
History of innovation and market leadership
He said SkyTel has a long and very distinct history of product innovation and market leadership. “We look forward to providing SkyTel associates a platform that will allow them to continue the successes they have achieved over the years,” said Fellows.
“Verizon Business is selling the SkyTel unit in order to even more closely focus on our core business of global IP services and next-generation services for large business and government customers of advanced wireless services provided through Verizon Wireless,” said Ron McMurtrie, group president for specialized services for Verizon Business in a statement. “We wanted to carefully select a buyer to make business transitions smoothly, and we look forward to working with Bell Industries and our customers in this transition.”
Roger S. Pondel, a spokesman for the company, said the amount of the liabilities to be assumed has not been disclosed.
“Bell management is continuing to seek ways to enhance shareholder value over the long term, and acquisitions are part of that strategy,” said Pondel.
Pondel said SkyTel has a long history in Mississippi, and that Bell anticipates keeping most of the operations in the area. “The company looks forward to providing SkyTel associates with an even greater platform to continue the successes in product innovation and market leadership achieved over the years. All of the options are being reviewed and will be announced at the appropriate time,” he said.
It is also too soon, said Pondel, to know whether Bell would add additional employees to the Clinton location.
Clinton Mayor Rosemary Aultman learned of the sale in a news release. “My information indicates they (the jobs) would be here. Our position is that we want SkyTel to stay here,” she said.
She called the former WorldCom headquarters “a class A facility.” “We’ve had several people who looked at it,” said Aultman.
Aultman believes one option would be for Bell to rent space from Verizon to house SkyTel workers. She said, “Verizon is interested in co-locators (in the building). MCI wasn’t.”
When Verizon closed on the merger with MCI last January 6, it acquired all property including three buildings, numbered 2, 3 and 4 at 500 Clinton Center Drive. A fourth building, numbered 1, was supposed to have been built, but never was.
The corporate headquarters was in Clinton when WorldCom was in existence, but it was moved to Ashburn, Va., April 14, 2003.
Earlier this year, the Clinton buildings housed about 325 Entergy employees. The company moved its corporate headquarters from New Orleans to Clinton following Hurricane Katrina. The employees have now moved back to New Orleans.
Debbie Lewis, a spokeswoman for Verizon, noted the company has 400 employees in Mississippi, and 200 work for SkyTel. “Most of the Sky Tel employees work out of the Clinton office,” she said.
Lewis said, “Bell is committed to retaining all of the SkyTel employees. Verizon will continue to own the building. It will be up to Bell to determine where the employees will work long term. Details on SkyTel’s office space in Mississippi will be worked out as we get nearer to the close of the transaction.”
She expects the sale to close in 60 to 90 days. The Federal Communications Commission has to approve transfers of wireless licenses before the sale can be completed.
“Assuming the marriage ends up positive, this could be good for the company and our community. SkyTel has a talented group of employees and hopefully now management will be able to concentrate all their efforts on building their business,” said Randy Mascagni, president, Mascagni & Company and a certified financial planner.