ServiceMaster acquires Ruppert Landscape Co. Illinois company adds Ashton firm to TruGreen- ChemLawn subsidiary

Service industry

August 26, 1998|By J. Leffall | J. Leffall,SUN STAFF

In an effort to expand its commercial landscape business into the mid-Atlantic region, ServiceMaster Co. said yesterday that it acquired Ruppert Landscape Co. of Ashton for an undisclosed price.

Based in Downers Grove, Ill., ServiceMaster supplies businesses and homeowners services that include pest control, housekeeping, laundry and lawn care.

Analysts said ServiceMaster hopes to gain a foothold in this region by expanding its TruGreen-ChemLawn subsidiary into markets stretching from Pennsylvania to Georgia -- an area served by Ruppert.

ServiceMaster also owns pest control giant Terminix and housecleaning franchiser Merry Maids.

Privately held Ruppert, in business since 1974, will be the largest of eight companies in TruGreen's new landscaping division. Ruppert has more than 800 employees with 13 branch offices and expects to have revenue of $45 million this year.

TruGreen-ChemLawn services 3 million customers through its 250 offices in the northwestern United States, Texas and Massachusetts.

Craig Ruppert, 45, who will remain as president of Ruppert, said his company chose a strategic partner to enhance its national presence.

"We have the opportunity to create and shape dramatic change in the industry," Ruppert said. "Ultimately we want to improve service for our customers and they will be the judge in the final analysis."

Ruppert said the deal would have no effect on employment.

David M. Slott, president of TruGreen-ChemLawn, said his company began to look at expansion in February and courted Ruppert in March.

"Their expertise in the field and national influences will assist us greatly," Slott said.

ServiceMaster spokeswoman Claire Buchan called the purchase of Ruppert a "platform" acquisition, which she said will turn into a major expansion on the eastern seaboard.

"Basically, they have extremely good management and they are one of the largest and leading companies in this area," she said. "It just made sense."

ServiceMaster operates in 38 countries and has annual revenue of $3.9 billion.

"It's extremely clever to consolidate and provide these services," said Barbara Chacour, an analyst with Brean Murray in New York. "ServiceMaster and all of its affiliates have a strong sales and growth rate. It's obvious that everyone involved knows what they are doing."

Shares in ServiceMaster lost 12.5 cents yesterday to close at $34.875 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pub Date: 8/26/98

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