The Anchorage-based company laying 1,800 kilometers of fiber optic cable under the sea and across the top of Alaska, as well as a terrestrial link down the Dalton Highway, has named George M. Tronsrue III as its interim CEO, effective immediately.
That means former CEO Elizabeth Pierce is out, also immediately. Pierce has been with the company since 2012. Before that, she was with Alaska Communications System.
Quintillion is described as a “middle-mile telecommunications company” that develops, constructs, and operates fiber optic infrastructure, offering wholesale high-speed Internet services for carriers through fiber optic cables. The company incorporated in 2012 and is headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska.
The company recently reported that the extensive subsea cable installed last summer, which included miles of subsea fiber into Nome, Kotzebue, Utqiagvik (Barrow), Point Hope and Wainwright, Alaska, is secure in the testing phase.
“The Quintillion network management team is monitoring the system 24/7 and is pleased with the performance of the system. Quintillion looks forward to completing the burial work on its Subsea Fiber Optic Cable System this summer and is on schedule to deliver wholesale capacity service later in 2017,” the company wrote.
“Quintillion’s fiber optic network will operate at the speed of light and offers wholesale capacity rates at 50-90% less than existing wholesale backhaul over satellite or microwave. Remote Alaskan communities are in serious need of true broadband and Quintillion is excited to bring lower-cost, world-class connectivity to the North American Arctic…”
WHO IS GEORGE TRONSRUE?
George Tronsrue III has decades of sales and operational experience in wireless, fiber optic and telecom infrastructure in over 70 major U.S. markets, according to a press release from Quintillion. He has held executive leadership roles at Monet Mobile Networks, the first commercial 3 G data company in the world, and with leading public and private Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLEC’s), including XO/Nextlink Communications.
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and retired Army captain, he has served as CEO for MainNerve Federal Services, Inc., which he founded, and as chairman and CEO for Telseon Inc. He is the co-founder, and CEO of ICEntertainment.
Tronsrue co-founded the Jericho Fund, LLC, and served as its president and manager.
COMPANY GROWING FORCE IN ALASKA
Quintillion started with the multi-million dollar investment of the Ukranian-born financier Leonard Blavatnik, now a U.S. citizen, and has since attracted two main Alaska-based corporate partners: ACS (Alaska Communication Services) and ASRC (Arctic Slope Regional Corporation). The project is a subsea cable that will stretch through the Arctic, from Japan to London. It will have five off-take points for Alaska communities — Nome, Kotzebue, Point Hope, Wainwright, and Barrow.
Blavatnik owns Warner Music and a multitude of other businesses. He made millions in the Russian oil industry after the break up of the Soviet Union, and has associates who have been tied to the Russian underworld. BP’s former President John Browne mentions him in his memoir, Beyond Business: An Inspirational Memoir From a Visionary Leader, as does Tom Bower, in his book, Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 21st Century.
The majority owner of Quintillion is Cooper Investment Partners, whose CEO, Stephen Cooper, is also the CEO of Warner Music. Cooper is also related, at least historically, to the Carlyle Group, whose CEO, David Rubenstein is the husband of the publisher of the Alaska Dispatch News, Alice Rogoff.
Cooper’s previous management experience includes Enron and Krispy Kreme. Cooper was hired by Carlyle to help turn around Hawaii Telecom, a Carlyle property formed in 2005. The venture eventually filed for bankruptcy and was reorganized.
The stakes in the telecommunications sector are high, the regulatory requirements are complicated, and the financial relationships are not always discernible. But no reason was given for Pierce’s departure at a time when the Alaska Phase 1 section of the project is said to be ready to become operational and ready to deliver high speed service along the wild north and northwestern coastline of Alaska, home to just a few thousand hearty, internet-starved Alaskans.
*This story has been updated to reflect that Blavatnik is Ukranian born, but a U.S. citizen.