ANCHORAGE -- The founders of Internet alaska are planning to sellsome of their shares as part of a deal that would keep control of thecompany in the hands of its top-level managers.
After several years of financial sacrifice that included funding theirstart-up by maxing out on their personal credit cards, Lance Ahern andMatthew Mannhardt said they are ready to see some return on theirinvestment in Internet Alaska.
The sale, if it goes through, would leave chief financial officer MichaelJalone with a controlling interest in the company that provides more than20,000 Alaskans with access to the Internet.
Ahern and Mannhardt built Internet Alaska from a two-man operation in1994 with a handful of customers to the state's largest Internet providerwith some 70 employees.
They entered the market as the Internet was catching on as an informationand entertainment medium.
Putting in twenty-four-hour days, sleeping on the office floor and buyingequipment with their credit cards were just a few of the sacrifices thetwo founders made in building a company that reported $6 million inrevenue for fiscal year 1997 and expects to double that for 1998.
"I am looking forward to selling my shares," said Ahern, the37-year-old company president. "My house needs a new roof, we could usea new well."
If all goes as planned, Mannhardt and Ahern will own 10 percent of thecompany each, and Jalone will own about 50 percent. Jalone would notdisclosed the planned purchase price.
ATU Telecommunications, the Anchorage telephone company that owns almost30 percent of the company, said it has no immediate plans to sell itsshares.
Both Mannhardt and Ahern said they still plan to stay involved in thecompany.
From the start, Internet Alaska, under Ahern's leadership, has pursued anaggressive marketing strategy. But as its customer base skyrocketed, thecompany struggled to keep up with the rapid growth and turned for help to Jalone, a former bank executive.
In many ways, Internet Alaska is "going from an entrepreneurial stage to a managerial phase," Jalone said. The company has been strong on the technical and marketing end, but was weak in the administrative aspect of the business, from billing to human resources, he said.
Jalone hopes to quadruple the company's revenue over the next several years, while growing its business customer base and expanding its product line.