Gibson, Johnson share more on Swingle-LawnAmerica merger

October 5, 2016 -  By
Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

It’s been a three-year-plus journey for Brad Johnson, founder of LawnAmerica, to find a buyer for the Tulsa, Okla.-based lawn care company. He turned down offers from several other companies and private equity firms and passed on becoming an employee-owned firm.

The journey culminated last month when Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care became the majority owner of LawnAmerica.

“I’ve heard it said that it’s harder to sell a business than it is to start one, and I would agree,” said Johnson, who founded LawnAmerica in 1999. He sold his first lawn care company to TruGreen in the early 1990s.

Johnson said he retains a minority ownership stake in the company and will work in the business for at least two years on a part-time basis.

LawnAmerica will do about $7.8 million in revenue this year. Swingle ranks 75th on the 2016 LM150 list of the largest landscape industry companies with $22.3 million in 2015 revenue.

Swingle has acquired more than a dozen companies since 2004, but this is the largest move and the first outside of Northern Colorado, said President John Gibson.

LawnAmerica is a great fit because of Swingle’s interest in growing its lawn care business, the company’s quality reputation and expertise, and its locations in markets that aren’t as seasonal as Colorado, Gibson said.

John Gibson.

John Gibson

The LawnAmerica name will stay in place and Swingle will operate it as a standalone company, offering the support and structure of a larger, 70-year old firm. LawnAmerica also has locations in Oklahoma City and North Carolina.

“They’ve got such great brand equity, and it’s just a great lawn care name,” Gibson said, explaining why the name will remain.

As for expansion plans, he said it’s “entirely possible” the brand will expand into regions outside of LawnAmerica’s and Swingle’s current markets.

“We’re always going to have organic growth–that’s the core of our business,” Gibson said. “And we’re always looking for the right acquisition.”

Swingle, which is historically a tree care company, doesn’t anticipate offering tree services under the LawnAmerica brand, and it’s yet-to-be decided if it will introduce the Swingle brand into LawnAmerica locations.

Johnson said his team knew he was looking for an exit strategy. He expects all employees to stay on board.

“Without our people we’re nothing, which is one of the reasons Swingle and others have looked at (acquiring) us,” he said. “We’ve got a great staff. I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t think it was a good opportunity for my people.

“We hope there’s new opportunity that opens up in the future for LawnAmerica,” Johnson said.

 

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Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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