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|Predecessor||Central West Public Service Co, Western Power & Gas, Central Telephone and Utilities Corp.|
|Founded||June 28, 1926 |
|Defunct||1993 (Acquired by Sprint)|
|Headquarters||Chicago, Illinois (1977-1993)
Lincoln, Nebraska (pre-1977), United States
|North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Florida, Texas, Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, Nevada|
|Products||Telephone, Cable Television, Wireless|
|Divisions||Central Telephone Company
Central Telephone Company of Virginia
Central Telephone Company of Texas
Centel Corporation was an American telecommunications company, with primary interests in providing basic telephone service, cellular phone service and cable television service. In 1926, Max McGraw consolidated his telephone utility holdings previously acquired during the 1920s to create Central Telephone Company. Simultaneously, McGraw's other utility interests were combined to form Central West Public Service Company, the parent company that would eventually become Centel Corporation in 1982.
Centel provided 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 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).
- Remaining network and assets are operated and maintained by Centurylink.
- Central Telephone Company: In 2006, Sprint spun off the former Centel telephone subsidiaries (which Sprint merged with its own United Telephone operations) as part of the formation of Embarq. Embarq was acquired by CenturyTel (now CenturyLink) in 2009. Central Telephone, Central Telephone Company of Virginia, and Central Telephone Company of Texas are still active CenturyLink subsidiaries.
- 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 Cable Television (was the nation's 22nd largest cable company): In 1989, Centel sold all of its cable operations in 6 separate transactions. Southeast Florida operations were sold to Adelphia Communications (then taken over by Comcast), Ohio operations to Warner Cable (now Time Warner Cable), Central Florida operations to American Television and Communications Corporation (a subsidiary of Time Inc., now Time Warner Cable, later to be spun off as Bright House Networks), Kentucky operations to Simmons Communications (later to Frontiervision, then Adelphia, then Time Warner Cable), Michigan operations to C-TEC (later Michigan Cable, then Avalon Cable, then Charter Communications) and Illinois operations to Jones Intercable (then taken over by Comcast) for a combined total of $1.4 billion. The price yielded a net gain of over $500 million to Centel.
- 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.
- Clement, Edwin A. (1977). The North Carolina Telephone Story. NCITA. pp. 96–99.