Growth Through Acquisition

How Windstream and Kristi Moody have blossomed together

Headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, Windstream Communications is the fifth largest DSL provider in the United States, offering coverage in all fifty states, including DSL, copper, fixed wireless, fiber, and cable internet access. When the company was formed through the spin-off of Alltel’s landline business and merger with VALOR Communications Group in 2006, however, that wasn’t the case. At the time, it only served sixteen states with roughly 3.4 million access lines. Yet, the fledging telecommunications company held a lot of promise that initial year, which is right when Kristi Moody joined the legal team.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Louisiana Tech University and a JD from the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Moody started practicing law in 1995. She spent nearly eleven years as a partner at Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP, where she worked as a civil defense litigator, specializing in personal injury defense, malpractice defense, and nursing home defense before joining Windstream, which is now one of Little Rock’s twenty-five largest employers.

Moody joined the company at an exciting time. Windstream’s common stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, and the company was listed on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. And while the company was in its formative stages, Moody quickly became integral to the company’s legal team, assisting in strategic company initiatives, managing dispute resolution, assisting with customer complaint and billing issues, and managing the IP portfolio. Additionally, she worked on advertising review and analysis, managed real estate matters and contractual issues for the internal network planning team, and worked with various groups on drafting and implementing the company’s policies.

In 2007, Windstream made its first major acquisition when it acquired CT Communications, which nearly doubled its presence in North Carolina. Similar strategic decisions followed in 2009 when the company acquired Lexcom Inc. and D&E Communications. That same year, with the new acquisitions, Windstream celebrated a milestone when it officially crossed the threshold of one million high-speed internet customers.

Throughout the next few years, Windstream experienced a period of unprecedented growth, acquiring KDL, Norlight, Hosted Solutions, Iowa Telecommunication Services Inc., NuVox Inc. in 2010, and PAETEC in 2011. In fact, the company’s expansion period led to Windstream establishing a new parent company, Windstream Holdings Inc., in 2013, which coincided with its debut on the Fortune 500.

As the company grew, so too did Moody’s responsibilities. In fact, she was named vice president of law in 2012 and deputy general counsel in 2013, and she began to contribute to key company functions, such as corporate governance, securities law compliance, investor relations, capital markets, treasury, external communications, and corporate development. Yet, she also retained oversight of dispute resolution and contingencies.

“Kristi has excelled throughout her career at Windstream and consistently provided exceptional judgment and effective counsel,” says John Fletcher, the company’s executive vice president, chief human resources and legal officer, in a news release. “The board and I are pleased to have her in this expanded governance and compliance role.”

The company’s growth—and Moody’s growth within the company—didn’t end there, though.

In 2016, the company expanded its metro fiber network in Charlotte, North Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; Chicago; and Minneapolis. Additionally, it launched its one-gigabit internet service in four markets, expanded its fixed wireless technology in forty markets, and expanded its fiber transport network throughout the western United States. By the year’s end, the company was poised to make the largest strategic decision in its eleven-year history.

On November 7, 2016, Windstream Holdings Inc. announced that it planned to merge with EarthLink Holding Corp., and the board of directors of each company had approved the agreement. The all-stock transaction was valued at roughly $1.1 billion. After securing approval from the federal government, the companies completed the merger in February 2017, not before naming a new general counsel, though.

Six days before Windstream announced that the merger was complete, it announced that Moody would be the company’s new general counsel. In the new role, she became responsible for overseeing all of the company’s legal affairs, including strategic initiatives, regulatory and securities law compliance, corporate governance and records, contracts, and state government affairs.

“With more than twenty-two years of experience as a corporate legal adviser, Kristi has the broad range of skills and experience required for the general counsel position,” Fletcher says, in a news release. “Kristi is a strong leader who has done exemplary work throughout her career at Windstream. I look forward to the continuing benefit of her exceptional judgment and effective counsel in her expanded role.”

With Moody at the legal helm, Windstream maintained its name and Arkansas headquarters through the merger with EarthLink. The merger meant that Windstream now has a national footprint made of more than 145,000 fiber route miles. It also opened the company to strategic markets in the Southeast and Northeast.

Today, the company is larger than ever. In fact, just months after the EarthLink merger, the company acquired Broadview Network Holdings in a $227.5 million all-cash transaction, which expanded its SD-WAN offerings. Now, if the company continues to grow at the rate it has since Moody joined the company, she will surely have her hands full as a Fortune 500 general counsel.