EarthLink to return HQ to Atlanta after sale

EarthLink, an Atlanta tech darling in the age of the dial-up web, has been acquired by a private equity firm that plans to re-establish the company’s headquarters in Atlanta.

The deal comes a little more than two years after rival telecommunications company Windstream announced it would buy EarthLink for $1.1 billion, including debt, basing the combined company in Little Rock, Ark. That deal closed in 2017.

Private equity firm Thrive Capital said in a news release Thursday it paid $330 million cash for EarthLink, assets from nQue Technologies and EarthLink’s Midtown Atlanta office building. In a news release dated Dec. 31, Windstream described EarthLink’s consumer internet services as non-core.

In its Thursday announcement, EarthLink officials said the company would retain its employees and hire new ones as it looks to grow.

“In addition to bringing more jobs to Atlanta, we are significantly expanding our national footprint to provide high speed Internet connectivity to more of the country,” EarthLink CEO Glenn Goad said in the release. “We are also rolling out innovative products focused on privacy and security, to help protect consumers and deliver a trusted experience when browsing the internet. Our goal is to provide the right technology at the right price, with a world class consumer experience.”

EarthLink was founded in Pasadena, Calif., and rose to the top ranks of dial-up providers behind AOL when it acquired Atlanta-based MindSpring in 2000 in a $3 billion deal. The combined company took on the EarthLink name, but based itself in Midtown.

But EarthLink was eventually pummeled by AT&T and cable companies such as Comcast that had a ready base of customers and the infrastructure to provide broadband service. Earthlink continued offering dial-up service for years but eventually bought its way into the broadband business and beefed up offerings to businesses.

“We’re excited to partner with the nQue and EarthLink teams, both of which have a long and successful history of operating consumer-facing connectivity businesses,” Thrive Managing Partner Conner Searcy said in the release. “The combination of EarthLink’s iconic brand and nQue’s technology platform provides the framework and team to keep EarthLink connecting consumers and businesses to the internet over the long-term.”