After more than 40 years of family ownership, Sunflower Broadband has a new public parent.
Knology of Kansas Inc., part of a Georgia-based communications company, formally acquired Lawrence-based Sunflower on Friday in a deal valued at $165 million.
The sale ends Sunflower’s ownership by The World Company, whose Sunflower Cablevision had started providing cable-television programming and services in January 1972. It would later become Sunflower Broadband, expanding into Internet, telephone and other services.
Today’s Sunflower customers — more than 33,000 for video, 28,000 for Internet and 15,000 for telephone in Douglas, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties — won’t notice much, if any, difference in products or services, at least in the short term, said Rod Kutemeier, general manager for Knology of Kansas Inc., a division of Knology Inc., which is based in West Point, Ga.
Customers will continue to use the same phone numbers, pay the same rates, enjoy the same channels and rely on the same local customer service that they’ve grown accustomed to, Kutemeier said.
Even the Sunflower Broadband name will remain, at least for now.
“There should be no changes in the immediate future,” said Kutemeier, who had been general manager for Sunflower. “Any changes in the future will be expansions of our current services.”
Such changes will be expected to be “gradual,” he said, and come with plenty of advance notice: at least 30 days for adjustments to rates or levels of service.
“There are no changes on the docket at this point,” Kutemeier said.
Sunflower’s 200 employees now become Knology employees, a staffing level expected to remain in place at least until Dec. 31, Kutemeier said. Knology also now owns Free State Studios, which will continue to provide local shows such as “Jayni’s Kitchen,” “1 on 1 Trivia” and others.
Knology also owns 6News, which will continue to provide news programming six nights a week.
“This is an exciting transaction for our company,” said Rodger L. Johnson, Knology’s chairman and CEO, in a statement. “Sunflower is a very successful, customer-focused business that will expand Knology’s footprint and add meaningful scale to our existing operations. We welcome the Sunflower team to Knology and are excited about our future together.”
The World Company continues to own and operate the Lawrence Journal-World, as well as other business ventures.