NorthPoint Communications (Former NASDAQ: NPNT) was a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier), focused on data transmission rather than voice. Its business plan involved leasing copper telephone lines from local phone companies, then selling them at wholesale prices to Internet service providers, which in turn sold business and residential DSL service.
NorthPoint's stock IPO occurred on May 5, 1999 at $24 a share, with the ticker NPNT.
NorthPoint grew its business quickly, and was a darling of the dot-com boom of 1999-2000.
Profitability Concerns Scuttle Merger Agreement with Verizon
As the dot-com bubble began to collapse, bankruptcies among its customers (which were generally smaller ISPs) forced NorthPoint to restate its earnings for the third quarter of 2000 with more negative numbers than the original quarterly earnings report implied.
After the earnings restatement, Verizon decided to terminate its already-signed agreement to merge its DSL business with that of NorthPoint (and invest an additional $800 million in cash), in return for owning 55% of the new company. Verizon claimed that the restated earnings showed an erosion in NorthPoint's customer base, and an unacceptable increase in their expenses and losses.
Lawsuit upon lawsuit then ensued. First NorthPoint sued Verizon on December 11, 2000, demanding that Verizon complete the merger process it had committed to in the signed merger agreement. Verizon agreed to settle this lawsuit just prior to it going to trial in July 2002, paying the NorthPoint bankruptcy estate $175 million and withdrawing a $31.2 million claim of its own. Then on December 21, an individual shareholder sued NorthPoint for alleged waste of corporate assets, gross mismanagement and breach of contract.
NorthPoint filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 23, 2001 when it lost the ability to continue to pay its creditors. It then pushed to find short term sources of money to keep the company afloat.
By March 29, 2001, NorthPoint's financial foundation had collapsed, with no source of debt relief. The next morning, Liz Fetter, Northpoint President and CEO sent a letter to ISPs including the following statement:
"At this point it is clear that NorthPoint no longer has funds available to finance the continued operations of our network. As a result, I am hereby giving you notice that the cessation of services to our partners and subscribers and the complete shut down of our network will commence today."
This in fact happened. Over the course of the next several days, tens of thousands of end customers' DSL service terminated, with no 'life raft' or any grace period allowed for customers to move to a different ISP.
AT&T Corporation bought the physical assets of NorthPoint communications for $135 million shortly thereafter, effectively ending the company's existence.