UPDATE: UniTek says it will stay in business as its lenders and creditors take ownership in a bankruptcy reorganization. Company statement here. MONDAY: UniTek Global Services Inc., a Blue Bell company that employs 3,200 people installing DirecTV, ATT, Comcast and other TV and Internet systems, has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del. UniTek cites debts totalling $186 million and assets just over $3 million, Bloomberg LP reports. Case is USBC (Del.) 14-12471.
UniTek shares fell to around 1 cent in trading Monday, down from a recent peak of $1.89 in June, and around $10 in 2011. The company reports more than $400 million in yearly sales, but has reported a loss each year since 2008.
Last month, UniTek CEO Rocky Romanella told investors and the SEC that his company had agreed to a "comprehensive debt restructuring" that would leave buyout-fund investors and creditors with large ownership positions in the firm. The investors included Littlejohn & Co., New Mountain Capital (whose advisory board members include former Tyco CEO Edward Breen, who is also a Comcast board member, though this isn't noted on Breen's current New Mountain profile), and others represented by Apollo Investment Corp. (an affiliate of Apollo Global Management, whose bosses include Sixers owner Josh Harris). The biggest UniTek customer is DirecTV.
Romanella told investors last fall that the company needed to diversify beyond its customer base, led by DirecTV, AT&T and Comcast. The company's divisions inlcude DirecSat USA (satellite TV), FTS USA (Comcast and other cable companies), Wirecomm Systems/Rogers Communications (Canada internet) and Pinnacle Wireless USA (mobile phones).
Other regional cable installers, including Pennsylvania-based Cable Line Inc. and McLaughlin Communications and Illinois-based Frontline, have complained in lawsuits that Comcast business actions amid industry consolidation have forced them out of business and that the larger company was earning fat profits at its contractors' and installers' expense, more here. Comcast has opposed those claims in court, saying they should be resolved through the company's contracts with its installers.
Former CEO C. Scott Hisey left Unitek in 2012, when the company had over 5,000 workers and $400 million in yearly sales, and now runs a King of Prussia-based rival company, QualTek USA LLC, with at least three other former UniTek executives. Hisey didn't return a call seeking comment. (Update: In an email Tuesday, Hisey says he didn't get a message from me. I called and emailed back and encouraged him to follow up.)
UniTek has operated under several names since Liberty Media and the venture capital units of JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs, Blackstone, Mellon and other big banks pumped $58 million into the company during the telecom and dot.com bubble of 2000.