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Cable TV business sale on hold so Groton City can review bids

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published January 08. 2013 4:00AM

Groton - The sale of Thames Valley Communications is on hold.

Multiple bids for the state's first and only municipally-owned cable television and Internet business were submitted before a Friday deadline, delaying what was expected to be a transfer of ownership to start the new year.

RBC Daniels, a consulting firm hired by the city, and the city's attorney are evaluating the viability of the undisclosed bidders. Mayor Marian Galbraith said Monday she hopes to have a resolution by the end of the month.

The city council had already voted to sell the 8-year-old business, in part to stop the flow of millions of dollars in yearly losses. Galbraith and TVC President Paul Yatcko in November announced the sale of TVC to CTP Investors LLC.

CTP, a private investment management firm with partners who specialize in the cable, broadband and wireless business, offered $150,000 - the only bid following a months-long search for a buyer.

"It offered us the ability to stop the bleeding ," Galbraith said.

Galbraith said CTP's offer was a more appealing choice to a partnership or liquidation. CTP had also announced their intention to invest in TVC, giving hope for the 23 employees there. TVC is likely to need a substantial capital investment to keep up with technology for the future.

The City Council in December approved the sale of TVC to CTP but left the door open for others bidders in the wording of their vote despite the fact the city had spent months, and $400,000, for a consultant to explore their options and search for buyers. Prior to the vote, an outspoken group of critics had asked for a delay to allow more time for other bidders.

Losses by TVC led to a downgrading of the city's bond rating and was costing the city more than $2.5 million a year in losses. The city is still paying back the $27.5 million of money borrowed to establish the company. TVC operates as a subsidiary of Groton Utilities, which has absorbed the debt payments into their budget.

Yatcko said the evaluation of the bids started over the weekend and the verdict is out on whether they are "materially better," than CTP's.

"Does a potential buyer have the wherewithal to purchase and operate the company… continue to make operational improvements in what is a tough competitive market?" Yatcko said.

The message to TVC customers, Yatcko said, is that the city will continue to provide the best product and customer service that have come to expect.

Galbraith declined to reveal who bid on TVC, citing confidentiality clauses for bidders. She said CTP Investors is still a willing buyer and she hopes for a final determination before the end of the month.

Galbraith planned to speak to the city council about the issue in executive session Monday night.

g.smith@theday.com

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