In less than three years, Vertical Bridge has climbed its way to the top of the broadband and broadcast tower industry. Since its launch in February 2014, the company has laid claim to 45,000 assets, closed more than 90 acquisitions and has achieved the title of largest privately held tower company in the country.
While towers are still an integral part of the wireless world, other physical access points like billboards, rooftops and various “street furniture” like light poles and benches, are doubling as broadband access points. Vertical Bridge has accumulated thousands of those pieces of property as well.
Each tower, billboard or rooftop Vertical Bridge brings under its umbrella is another piece of real estate the company can use to help its customers build out their wireless networks. While Vertical Bridge is in the business of telecommunications and towers, they are specifically in the business of buying and providing real estate for customers and carriers looking to expand their wireless reach. “We operate in a space that is fast and dynamic,” said Bernard Borghei, Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Operations. “Carriers need people who can keep up with them.”
Vertical Bridge counts all of the top wireless carriers as tenants, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, as well as a number of regional carriers. Over the last several years, those companies have been working toward building out their 3G and 4G networks to handle traffic from the influx of mobile devices. However, the landscape is changing. Instead of just connecting internet-connected computers, tablets and smartphones, carriers are having to provide the bandwidth for all kinds of smart devices to jump online. The term used to describe the new generation of internet-connected devices is the “Internet of Things” or “IoT.” The result of IoT is hundreds of thousands of appliances, machines, gadgets and even cities crowding the networks. “Now we’re building for capacity, building for providing higher bandwidth closer to the users,” Borghei goes on to say. That means having more access points, more real estate, in more places. For starters, Vertical Bridge has already signed an exclusive management deal with Clear Channel Outdoor for access to its 39,000 billboards across the country. More real estate for Vertical Bridge, means more opportunities for carriers to connect their customers online as they travel down the highway.
Towers, billboards and rooftops are not the only real estate Vertical Bridge considers crucial to their expansion and reach. The physical land surrounding their assets is just as important.
“Years ago, these towers were all built in rural areas, but now years later, many of them are in urban and suburban areas,” Borghei explains. “No one else will be allowed to build these towers at these heights in these locations again.” That means that Vertical Bridge holds a large portion of a limited resource in its possession. With the anticipated launch of the next generation of mobile video delivery services such as Over-the-Top content, or “OTT,” tall towers are growing in demand, but development codes prevent new ones from being built close to where the end users are – in cities and towns. Similarly, the company owns the land underneath most of its towers. That land has access to power, fiber and everything required to host a core network.
“We’re seeing the de-centralization of some of the core physical elements that were traditionally centralized in a switch building,” Borghei states. “As network virtualization takes place and elements go closer to the edge of the physical layer of a network, real estate assets that can accommodate them will become more attractive to clients.”
Despite its impressive portfolio, Vertical Bridge relies heavily on customer service to attract and retain clients. “It starts with us having the internal culture that we promote every single day. We follow three words: Fast, friendly and flexible,” Borghei adds. “We want to stay reasonable and adapt to changes. In order to be fast, Vertical Bridge has freed up its workforce to act on customer requests without having to navigate a long and convoluted process. “We’re a large company, but we empower our people to make decisions. We don’t want a request from the client to have to go through layers of decision making,”
When it comes to flexibility, Borghei goes on to say the company prioritizes the customers’ goals and experience over terms in the fine print of a contract. “We have an excellent relationship with all of our customers,” Borghei explains. “If a customer needs something to be modified, if they need some flexibility from us…if they have to expand past what they previously asked of us, we work hard to meet those needs. We’re not concerned about every period and comma on the contract.”
The company also values its relationships with its partners. “We have a very robust partner program. We score our vendors every quarter on safety, timeliness, quality, pricing and more,” Borghei acknowledges. “We give continuous feedback to our partners about what is working well and what we need to enhance. They always know where they stand and where they can improve, which helps solidify great relationships.”
Finally, Vertical Bridge has a special place in its collective heart for the community. “We dedicate 1 percent of annual revenue to charitable causes,” Borghei says with a smile. “People tell me I’m as excited about this as I am about the business.” Employees and partners nominate causes, and Vertical Bridge selects from that pool to either donate financially or provide man power via its staff for a day of service. “Every full time employee in our company gets one full paid day off to do community service on top of sick days and paid-time-off. We encourage our various groups and departments to mix and match and go out together,” Borghei states proudly. Over the course of its short history, Vertical Bridge has participated in feeding the homeless, visiting veterans, contributing to cancer research, packing food for soldiers, serving children that are ill, cleaning up parks, and much more.
“The wireless industry was pretty immune from the last recession,” Borghei noted. “We feel very lucky to be in this industry, and we feel strongly that we need to give back to our community.”
Vertical Bridge may have gone from zero to 45,000 assets in less than three years, but its executive team has a combined century-plus experience in the telecom tower industry. What helped them ramp up so quickly? Understanding the pain points their potential customer base was facing, molding their business into one that addressed those problems, prioritizing their people, partners and community, and grabbing up real estate that wireless carriers look for as they continue to build out their networks for years to come.
Our senior leadership team brings over 100 years of experience in the tower and related sectors to Vertical Bridge. Our founders and managers were the principal senior officers of Global Tower Partners (GTP), which they grew to become the largest private owner and manager of wireless communication infrastructure in North America prior to its sale for $4.8 billion in October 2013.
Marc Ganzi - Executive Chairman
Marc Ganzi is a successful real estate and telecommunications entrepreneur. In addition to serving as Executive Chairman of Vertical Bridge, he is the co-founder and Chief Executive Office of Digital Bridge Holdings, LLC. He previously co-founded Global Tower Partners (GTP), an owner and operator of communications, real estate and related companies, where he played an instrumental role in building the business, which was ultimately sold in 2013 for over $4.8 billion.
Prior to GTP, Ganzi was a consulting partner at Deutsche Bank’s DB Capital Partners overseeing the institution's radio tower sector investments in Latin and North America. His other earlier experience includes Apex Site Management and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Foreign Commercial Service Department.
Ganzi is a member of Young Presidents' Organization, a Director of Olympus Media, LLC, and a three time finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Florida. He is a graduate of Wharton School of Business at the University Of Pennsylvania.
Alex Gellman - Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder
Alexander L. Gellman is the Chief Executive Officer of Vertical Bridge, the largest private owner and operator of wireless communications infrastructure in the US.
Prior to co-founding Vertical Bridge, Mr. Gellman was President and COO of Global Tower Partners, the largest privately-held tower company in the United States. Mr. Gellman was instrumental in the sale of Global Tower Partners to American Tower Corporation in 2013 for over $4.8 billion. Previously, Mr. Gellman has been involved in a number of successful ventures, including Sonitrol Corporation, a leading provider of verified electronic security in North America where he served as President and COO until its sale to Stanley Works.
Mr. Gellman also co-founded Apex Site Management, the largest third-party manager of wireless and wireline communications sites in the U.S. Apex merged with SpectraSite Communications to create the largest telecommunications site portfolio in the United States. Following the merger, Mr. Gellman served as President and CEO of SpectraSite-Transco Communications, Ltd., a joint venture between SpectraSite and British Gas to develop tower sites in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Gellman previously served as Vice President - Development and a co-founder of Horizon Cellular Group, a start-up backed by McCaw Cellular to acquire, develop and operate rural cellular franchises in the eastern United States.
Mr. Gellman earned an MBA in Finance and Accounting from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a BS in Biology from Tufts University.
Bernard Borghei - Senior Vice President – Operations and Co-Founder
Bernard Borghei is the Co-Founder and Senior Vice President, Operations of Vertical Bridge. He is responsible for Vertical Bridge’s daily operations, regulatory compliance, vendor management, engineering services, and human resources.
Borghei has over 22 years of experience in wireless industries and before co-founding Vertical Bridge, he served as Senior Vice President and Partner at Global Tower Partners (GTP), where he oversaw domestic and international market operations, including a portfolio of more than 6,500 towers and 12,000 managed properties.
Borghei has also held executive and senior management positions in operations, engineering, sales, supply chain, site development, and customer care at several wireless operators and service providers including SkyBitz, Wireless Facilities, Inc. Western Wireless International, and at Triton PCS where he successfully ran operations across 24 different countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North and South America.
Bernard has a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University and an MBA in global management from the University of Phoenix.
Michael Belski - Senior Vice President – Leasing & Marketing and Co-Founder
Michael Belski is the Co-Founder and Senior Vice President, Leasing & Marketing of Vertical Bridge. He is responsible for creating deep relationships with clients, working with some of the country’s largest carriers to develop leasing contracts.
Prior to co-founding Vertical Bridge, Belski was the Senior Vice President of Leasing & Marketing at Global Tower Partners (GTP), where he was responsible for leasing and marketing the company’s portfolio of assets and securing build-to-suit contracts.
He previously held senior positions at Morrison Hershfield Corporation and SBA Communications Corporation.
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