NICE Corp., an Ogden-based telemarketing firm, has agreed in principal to be purchased by Cincinnati Bell Inc. for about $27.3 million, both companies said Wednesday.

The acquisition is subject to signing a definitive agreement, approval by Cincinnati Bell directors and government approvals.Officials said management and operations of the 12-year-old Utah company would remain in place as it becomes a subsidiary of Cincinnati Bell Inc. - an independent telecommunications concern that provides local exchange service to southwestern Ohio and small areas of Kentucky and Indiana.

"This is an excellent opportunity for us to grow with one of the premier telemarketing firms in the country," said Brent Welch, NICE executive vice president.

Welch said he wasn't certain if NICE approached Cincinnati Bell as a way to expand, but he did say that NICE "has always looked and kept opportunities for growth open."

"This was something both companies were interested in doing."

A spokesman for Cincinnati Bell said it has not been determined how NICE Corp. will be integrated into the new parent. In addition to its local phone company, Cincinnati Bell also owns a software subsidiary, a venture capital company and a small business-to-business telemarketing firm, Telephone Marketing Services.

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Cincinnati Bell said the NICE acquisition will expand the Ohio company's telemarketing service.

NICE Corp., a closely held company whose majority owners are Seldon O. Young and Jered F. Brown, is a leading provider of inbound and outbound telemarketing services, such as processing customer orders, voter canvassing for political campaigns, and marketing products over the telephone. NICE is also involved in shipping and direct mail services.

NICE employs about 2,400 people at operations in Ogden, Provo, Cedar City, Detroit, Philadelphia and a sales office in New York.

Welch said Cincinnati Bell was particularly impressed with NICE's local labor force and Utah's emphasis in telemarketing. In addition to NICE, other national firms have based regional telephone ordering operations along the Wasatch Front, namely Fidelity Investments and Sears.

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