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Row 44 bought in $430M deal

By   /   Friday, November 9th, 2012  /   Comments Off on Row 44 bought in $430M deal

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Westlake Village-based Row 44, a supplier of broadband Internet systems for airplanes, has been acquired in a deal valued at $430 million that will combine it with a content provider.

A purpose-made company called Global Eagle Acquisition Corp. will roll together Row 44 with Advanced Inflight Alliance AG, a German-based content company that has deals in place to supply in-cabin games and movies on more than 130 airlines around the world.

Earlier this year, Advanced Inflight Alliance led a $45 million investment round in Row 44 that pushed the Westlake Village company’s funding to $100 million since 2008. PAR Capital Management is Row 44’s other major investor.

Following the close of the deal, Global Eagle’s owners intend to rename the company Global Eagle Entertainment and list it on the Nasdaq under the symbol ENT. The resulting company would own 100 percent of Row 44’s shares and 86 percent of Advanced Inflight’s shares, with the remaining 14 percent of those shares continuing to trade on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Global Eagle said that Row 44’s current management team in Westlake Village will remain in place.

Gregg Fialcowitz and John Guidon founded Row 44 in 2004. Row 44 has rolled out its wireless Internet in more than 400 aircraft worldwide, including Southwest Airlines flights in the U.S. The industry remains in its early stages, and Row 44 set itself apart by licensing space-based satellite technology that works over the ocean rather than using ground-based towers.

Illinois-based GoGo Wireless has a lead in the domestic in-flight broadband market. But Row 44 has picked up airlines in Norway, South Africa and many other international markets. The company’s leaders believe its ability to operate over water will help it snap up market share as in-flight broadband expands to markets in Asia, the Middle East and beyond ground-based borders. The company has offices in Las Vegas, London, Russia and China.

“There’s a bit of a land grab out there,” CEO John LaValle told the Business Times earlier this year.

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