SavATree scoops up Swingle in pursuit of ‘national brand’ status

October 12, 2017 -  By
Tom Tolkacz and Daniel van Starrenburg

“As we considered the best opportunities to move the company forward, we wanted to entrust the business to a company with similar core values and high quality standards,” Swingle CEO Tom Tolkacz said. “SavATree was without a doubt the best option. Tolkacz (left) shakes hands with SavATree CEO Daniel van Starrenburg.

Bedford Hills, N.Y.-based SavATree merged with Denver-based Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care. Terms were not disclosed for the deal, which is a step toward SavATree’s vision of building a national brand.

SavATree ranked No. 15 on the 2017 LM150 list of largest landscape companies with nearly $90 million in 2016 revenue. Swingle ranked No. 80 at $23.7 million.

This summer, New York-based private equity firm CI Capital Partners acquired a majority interest in SavATree.

“We joined CI Capital to be able to accelerate and execute on our strategy of building a national brand,” SavATree CEO Daniel van Starrenburg told LM. “We’re very excited to be in a position to do that.”

Swingle deal details

Former Swingle CEO Tom Tolkacz will pursue other business interests, including running LawnAmerica, which Swingle acquired last year and has operated as a standalone company. Former Swingle President John Gibson and the rest of the team will join SavATree.

The Swingle brand will be retained initially, before cobranding.

“Because of the brand legacy and the fact it’s been in the marketplace for 70 years, we want to respect the value of the brand,” van Starrenburg said.

The Swingle merger is the company’s third this year and second in the Colorado market in 2017. SavATree acquired Denver-based Mountain High Tree, Lawn & Landscape in April and Virginia’s Thrive Plant Health Care Solutions in May.

Growth strategy

Though van Starrenburg declined to provide a revenue goal, he said the estimated acquisition count is six to seven per year.

“The goal is to accelerate the M&A work we’ve done in the past and to have many other (acquisitions) in the future,” he said. “If you were to poll people today and you ask them, ‘Who do you think of when you think of caring for trees, shrubs and lawns,’ you would get fragmented responses. We don’t think anybody owns that brand. We want to be that company.”

In terms of acquisition targets, SavATree is looking at both platform or “beach head” companies in the $5 million range and tuck-in acquisitions as low as $1 million in annual revenue.

“The type of companies we’re interested in are companies that seek to be best-in-class providers in the markets they serve, have a diverse customer segmentation, provide similar services that we provide and where we have alignment with the management team and they see the benefit and the opportunity of joining forces with us,” van Starrenburg said.

SavATree doesn’t have a preference between tree or lawn care companies, but it’s not interested in acquiring mowing or design/build firms.

Van Starrenburg touted SavATree as an attractive option for owners thinking about selling their businesses, because it retains the team of a company it acquires. He knows a seller’s top concern is often what will happen to his or her employees.

He added, “This strategy of ours contradicts that of many other consolidators in the industry that dismiss much of the talent overnight.”

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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