2009 was definitely a down year for mergers & acquisitions within the green industry – and for just about every other industry as well.  The twin specters of economic uncertainty and an often extremely challenging credit market caused the number of transactions to fall both out of necessity and out of caution.

That being said, many transactions did get completed.  In this article, we will recap many of the transactions that did take place as we try to make sense of what to expect in the coming year.

January

Yellowstone Landscape Group and its private equity sponsor, Gridiron Capital, announced their third platform acquisition, Austin Outdoor, based in Bunnell, Florida, with a number of other offices in Florida, plus the Bahamas.

The assets of Hines Horticultural were acquired by Black Diamond Capital Management, LLC.  Hines had filed for bankruptcy protection in August 2008.  The business is now known as Hines Nurseries, LLC.   Hines is one of the largest commercial nursery operators in North America, operating seven nurseries in four states.

February

Davey Tree announced it had acquired Monteleone Landscaping Company of North Royalton, Ohio.

March

Bartlett Tree Experts announced the acquisition of Empire Tree and Turf in Augusta, Georgia, and Top Notch Treecare in Plymouth, Minnesota.

April

Mission Landscape of Tustin, California, acquired Landarcwest, a landscape architecture firm based in Irvine, California.

San Jose-based Jensen Corporate Holdings, Inc. acquired Huppe Landscape Company, Inc. of Roseville, California.

Arizona-based Pathway Landscape, a landscape architecture firm, announced what it called a strategic partnership with Paradise Full Service Landscaping of Scottsdale, a full-service landscape maintenance business.  The combined company, operating under the name Pathway Landscape Maintenance & Design, serves Scottsdale, Tempe, Phoenix and nearly every other city in the Valley of the Sun.

May

Denver-based American Civil Constructors sold its landscape maintenance unit, ACC Landscape Services, LLC to Progress Equity Partners.  ACC Landscape Services operations are in Colorado and Northern California.

July

Noblesville, Indiana-based Custom Touch Irrigation acquired Indianapolis-based Perfect Property Services.

The Brickman Group announced it had “formed a partnership” with Pontiac, Michigan-based Torre & Brugglio.

August

Brighton Partners, LLC acquired a 70% interest in New England lawn care company, Lawn Dawg, Inc., in a recapitalization.  Lawn Dawg has operations in Nashua, New Hampshire, Boston, Massachusetts, Albany, New York, and Portland, Maine.  Lawn Dawg’s president, Jim Campanella,  continues in that role and as a major shareholder.  In announcing the recapitalization, Campanella, an industry veteran and former president of the Professional Lawn Care Association of America, also announced plans to launch an acquisition program.

Austin Outdoor, LLC, a unit of Gridiron Capital-backed Yellowstone Landscape Group, acquired Dolphin Landscape of West Palm Beach, with operations serving Martin, Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties in Florida.

Sav-A-Tree announced the acquisition of H.R. Spooner Ornamental Care of East Falmouth, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.

October

The Brickman Group announced the acquisition of D. Foley Landscape, Inc. of Walpole, Massachusetts.

Also in October,  two Atlanta-area lawn care businesses, Crabapple Turf Management, Inc. and Unlimited Landscaping and Turf Management, Inc., merged their residential lawn care businesses.

December

Massey Services, Inc. completed the acquisition of Sunair Services, Inc. and its Middleton Pest Control subsidiary.  The merger, the final chapter in a well-publicized take-over battle, combined cross-town, Orlando-area rivals and formed a very strong statewide network in the key state of Florida.

Other

In May, Lawn and Landscape quoted newly-named TruGreen Lawncare president Steven Donly as saying, “Strategic acquisitions have always been a fundamental component of TruGreen’s growth strategy. We believe we can bring owners a compelling business case for growth and create a winning combination for customers looking for outstanding service from a brand they can trust.”  TruGreen does not normally announce individual acquisitions, but in August it announced the acquisition of Nutri-Turf in Michigan and Easy Chair Lawn Care in Ohio.

An analysis of the public filings of The ServiceMaster Company, TruGreen’s parent company, suggest that TruGreen completed acquisitions totaling approximnately $15  million during the first nine months of 2009, compared to approximately $20   million during the first nine months of 2008.   Two major acquirors in years past, Scott’s Lawn Service, a unit of The Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company and The ValleyCrest Companies reported no acquisition activity during the year.

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