Co-founder launches Crown Castle proxy fight after being rebuffed by Elliott, to reshape its ‘ridiculed’ image

In Featured News by Wireless Estimator

Ted Miller

TAKING OFF THE GLOVES FOR A PROXY FIGHT – Co-founder Ted Miller said that Crown Castle could capture as much as $15 billion by selling its fiber assets if it let him and his partners join its board of directors. In a letter released this morning to Crown Castle Chairman Robert Bartola, Miller said, “This is a pivotal moment for the future of the company I founded, Crown Castle Inc. Like you, I believe that Crown Castle must be rebooted after the shameful adventure into fiber, which has cost investors tens of billions and turned the global industry-leader into a ridiculed laggard.” His letter to Bartolo and his recommendations on how the company can be turned around can be read here.

Ted Miller, the co-founder of Crown Castle, stated today that the U.S. telecom infrastructure firm could sell its fiber assets for up to $15 billion if he and his partners were added to the board of directors. In a conversation with Reuters, Miller expressed confidence that his team is ideally suited to secure buyers for the fiber division and to assist in enhancing Crown Castle’s tower assets to match the pace of wireless technology evolution.

Miller emphasized the insights gained from founding and taking a company public instead of stepping into an established entity. While Crown Castle has not commented on Miller’s proposal, the company did announce in December its intention to explore the fiber business sale, following an agreement with Elliott Investment Management aimed at board reorganization.

But Miller and his partners reportedly reached out to Elliott Management in an effort to join forces with the activist around the same time that Elliott launched its second campaign in November, and Elliott Management declined the offer.

Miller has outlined a plan, already in motion, that could expedite the sale process by six months, targeting completion by the end of 2024. His preliminary efforts, which involved a $5 million investment, included securing non-disclosure agreements with 25 potential buyers and identifying over $1 billion in tax benefits that could be leveraged if the transaction is finalized within the year. He suggests the sale proceeds could significantly reduce debt and fund a $1.9 billion stock repurchase.

Requesting the positions of executive chairman for himself and board seats for three of his associates, Miller is pushing for significant changes at Crown Castle. His proposed team includes Chuck Green, a former CFO of Crown Castle; Daniel Wheeler, a former investment banker at Credit Suisse; and Tripp Rice, Miller’s son-in-law and partner at 4M Investments.

Miller’s critique extends beyond board composition to operational and cultural aspects of Crown Castle, noting the company’s stagnant tower count, increased staff numbers, and a perceived lag in adopting new technologies like drone data and AI. He advocates for leadership changes to steer the company towards selling its fiber assets, investing in tower infrastructure, mending carrier relationships, and cultural repair.

Following Jay Brown’s departure as CEO, Anthony Melone serves as the interim CEO. Miller also challenges the influence granted to Elliott through a recent board agreement and calls for a shareholder vote on the matter.

Having founded Crown Castle in 1994 and led it as CEO until 2002, Miller continues to be an influential figure in the telecom sector. Despite Crown Castle’s significant market value and its role as a tower provider to major wireless carriers, the company’s shares have seen a 23% decline over the past year, contrasting with the performance of its peers.

Miller, an attorney and accountant by training, is also the founder and chairman of Visual Intelligence, a unified drone sensor and software automation platform that digitizes physical infrastructure with millimeter accuracy to reliably deliver 3D, engineering-grade asset intelligence.