Lawsuit Has Everything You Wanted to Know About Cutthroat Business of Cell Tower Industry

Digging through the federal filings this morning I came across this item of some intrigue: TriStar Investors, Inc., v American Tower Corporation, filed yesterday at the Earle Cabell and a surprisingly insightful and riveting read. Neither company's actually based in Dallas, but their dispute is: TriStar's claiming that American Tower, a $25-billion player in the cell-tower business, is trying to undercut its dealings into the Dallas-Fort Worth market. TriStar says it has control over some 100 towers in Texas, most in the DFW. And TriStar's been trying to acquire more, it says, except it's alleging that the "Goliath" has been doing all it can to keep "David" down. Which, says TriStar, is just unfair.

The complaint, which follows, reveals everything you ever wanted to know about the cell tower business, which involves leased land, subleased steel and billions in profits being disbursed to property owners who let the carriers and tower companies use their land. Says the suit, though, while tower revenues have significantly increased in the years following the signing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, payments to property owners are on the decline, as in: "Over the course of the past 15 years, the total cash flow from a typical cell tower has increased by more than 400%, while the share of total cash flow that is typically received by a landowner has declined by more than 50%."

TriStar says it's trying to get into the game by offering property owners more to lease the land beneath the tower, and that American Tower's not having any of it. The company points to a few dust-ups in Tarrant and Dallas counties to prove its point, such as:

In Dallas County, TriStar offered Karl Willock $100,000 to purchase a tower site, which was significantly more than American Tower was willing to pay for the same site. Instead of increasing its offer, American Tower made false statements to Mr. Willock about the company's ability to tear down the tower, which is subject to the SBC Sublease. Mr. Willock eventually signed with TriStar, but TriStar had to increase the purchase price to $136,000 to overcome American Tower's misrepresentations and disparaging comments about TriStar to Mr. Willock.

The whole thing's below. Just don't read it on your cell phone.

Lawsuit Over Cell Towers

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