**Editor's Note: Please click here for Channel Partners' complete coverage of Birch's pending acquisition of Cbeyond.**
Birch Communications is assuming all Cbeyond channel partners' contracts as part of the $323 million transaction announced this week.
"Everything will be honored before closing and after closing," Birch CEO Vincent Oddo told Channel Partners on Wednesday.
That's big news, as Birch has not taken this approach in many of its 20 previous acquisitions, including the Ernest Communications and Lightyear Network Solutions purchases. Indeed, it's a strategy that has resulted in at least one lawsuit in which Birch must pay damages.
But legal tussles, and ensuing channel concerns, do not seem likely to arise from the Cbeyond buy.
"We are definitely committed to the...channel just as Cbeyond was," Oddo said, adding, "There should be no trepidation."
Alan Sandler, founding partner of master agency Sandler Partners, agreed.
"We know from this deal, and our ongoing interaction with Birch, that their channel commitment is strong," he said. "This commitment was in full view on the day of the deal. So often, when these types of deals are announced, there’s a lack of communication to the channel that creates uncertainty and unnecessary hand-wringing. In this case, on the very day the deal was announced, Birch sent a notice to the channel pledging to honor all channel commitments."
Who Will Lead the Channel?
Meantime, since the Cbeyond acquisition was just announced on Monday, specifics about who will run the finalized Birch channel program, and how support will be structured, have yet to be worked out. Still, Oddo said he would share what information he could.
In terms of integrating the Birch and Cbeyond partner programs, "we don't have all those answers because we do have to get to the business of discussing that with the existing organization and figuring out exactly how we're going to operate things," Oddo said.
For example, Birch does not yet know who will serve as channel chief – Cbeyond's Zane Long or Birch's Brad Smith.
"We really haven't sat down with the other side and sat down with Zane just yet...but we will do that shortly," Oddo said. "We have a history at Birch of picking the best of the best. We've got many people on our teams that came from the acquired companies."