Centel

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Centel Corporation
Industry Telecommunications
Founded 1900 as McGraw Electric Company
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois, USA
Products Telephone, Cable Television, Wireless

Centel Corporation was an American telecommunications company, with primary interests in providing basic telephone service, cellular phone service and cable television service. It was founded in 1900 as an electric company.

Centel provided basic telephone service through its Central Telephone Company subsidiary. Its largest coverage areas by lines installed were Las Vegas, two Chicago suburbs (Des Plaines and Park Ridge), Tallahassee, FL and Charlottesville, VA. It was, until the breakup of AT&T in 1984, the fifth largest telephone company in the United States after AT&T, GTE, United Telecom[disambiguation needed] and Contel.

Centel was purchased by Sprint in 1993 for approximately $3 billion in Sprint common stock. Centel's stock was trading at $42.50 per share on the New York Stock Exchange just before the merger announcement in May 1992, but the cash value of the deal (commonly referred to as a "takeunder") worked out to be only $33.50 per share of Centel stock. After a bitter battle with dissident shareholders who believed the company was worth more, the merger was ultimately approved by a very narrow majority with 50.5% of the outstanding shares voting for the merger.

Centel had consolidated revenues of $1.2 billion in 1991. At the time of its 1993 purchase by Sprint, Centel provided local telephone service to 1.5 million telephone lines in seven states and was also the 10th largest cellular company with operations in 22 states. It had 9,300 employees. It had previously sold its Cable Operations in 1989 and its Electric operations in 1991.

Ironically, Sprint didn't end up keeping either of Centel's businesses (cellular and local telephone service) that it acquired. The cellular operations were spun off in 1996 so Sprint could instead focus on providing Sprint PCS cellular service. The local telephone operations were spun off (after being combined with Sprint's own local telephone operations) in 2006 (see below).

Former subsidiaries[edit]

  • Currently network and assets are operated and maintained by Centurylink.
  • Centel Cellular Company: In 1993, Centel Cellular Company changed its name to Sprint Cellular Company when Sprint acquired Centel. It was subsequently spun off as 360 Communications Company in 1996. Alltel acquired 360 Communications Company in 1998 for $4.1 billion. Verizon Wireless acquired Alltel in 2008.
  • Centel Electric: In 1991, Centel sold its electric utility holdings in Kansas and Colorado to UtiliCorp (later known as Aquila, Inc.) for $345 million. In 2006, Aquila sold the Kansas electric properties to Mid-Kansas Electric Company (a cooperative). In 2008, the Colorado electric properties were acquired by Black Hills Corporation.

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