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ICO-Teledesic Global Raises $1 Billion

[London, ENGLAND] ICO-Teledesic Global announced Tuesday that investors including Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), Eagle River, and Bill Gates have agreed to back its satellite communications venture with $1 billion.

Private equity investor CD&R will put $350 million into the satellite venture pioneered by Craig McCaw, the founder of Teledesic and now chairman of both ICO-Teledesic Global and New ICO. Eagle River Investments is investing $500 million -- part of the $1.2 billion restructuring of London-based New ICO.

Taking a relatively minor role on this occasion, Bill Gates is investing a modest $100 million in the venture via his private investment vehicle Cascade Investment. However, he was one of Teledesic's two primary founding investors when he joined with telecommunications pioneer McCaw in 1994.

"We're honored and humbled to have such sophisticated international investors as part of our team. We're further honored that Bill Gates continues to be an outstanding partner and supporter. We greatly appreciate his participation," said a joyful McCaw, whose ambitious project to become a global provider of wireless Internet-in-the-Sky satellite services could become a major rival to land-based fiber networks.

A merger between New ICO (pronounced "EYE-co") and Teledesic is still subject to approval by shareholders and regulatory authorities, but if it goes ahead both companies will become subsidiaries of ICO-Teledesic Global. Tuesday's announcement of massive investment makes this more likely.

The rest of the $1 billion comes from other investors, including Indian media entrepreneur Subhash Chandra, and Burtington Resources, the private investment vehicle of Swiss investors Jack and Philippe Setton.

The target date for launching Teledesic's broadband Internet services is late 2004. New ICO, however, has an earlier starting date for its third-generation (3G) wireless services via satellite, saying it will introduce them in 2003.

George W. Tamke, an operating partner of CD&R and former vice chairman and co-chief executive of Emerson Electric Company, will serve on the ICO-Teledesic Global board.