Departments - Industry News

June 16, 2011

Stephen Donly resigns from TruGreen LawnCare
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – On the heels of a disappointing first quarter, Stephen Donly has resigned as president of TruGreen LawnCare.

While revenue was up nearly 10 pecent compared to last year, the company’s top line was still less than in 2007.

“These results simply aren’t acceptable,” said ServiceMaster CEO Hank Mulally, according to the Memphis Daily News. “Customer counts haven’t been growing. … We’ve already taken steps to simplify the company with the sale of TruGreen LandCare. Selling LandCare helped eliminate a distraction.”

The move comes just weeks after the firm’s parent company, ServiceMaster, sold its underperforming commercial landscape division, TruGreen LandCare, to a private equity firm.

Thomas Brackett, president and COO of Terminix, will head up the lawn care business until a replacement is found.

Donly joined TruGreen as president and COO in 2009.

ServiceMaster spokesperson Chris Curran, said Donly was not forced out, and that the company has begun a search for a new  president.

“Steve decided to resign from the company for personal reasons,” Curran said. “We appreciate Steve’s contributions to ServiceMaster and his commitment to the TruGreen brand.”

Though Donly’s resignation comes at the busiest time of the year for lawn care operators, Curran said Brackett’s experiences with Terminix will provide stability through the transition.

“ServiceMaster CEO Hank Mullany has asked Tom to immediately identify opportunities to accelerate best-practice sharing between Terminix and TruGreen to help achieve our vision of being a rapidly-growing, best-in-class service provider and the best place to work and invest,” Curran said.

Donly is the third executive to leave ServiceMaster this year. Senior Vice President and CFO Steven Martin resigned from the company in April. An external search is underway to find a permanent replacement.

David Martin was appointed as interim chief financial officer. He has served as the company’s senior vice president and controller since 2007 and chief accounting officer since 2010.

J. Patrick Spainhour retired as CEO of ServiceMaster in March. He was replaced by Mullany.

TruGreen LawnCare reported a 9.8 percent increase in revenue for the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same time last year, and first quarter customer rolls were down 3.6 percent.

But, in SEC filings, the company cites higher prices, earlier starts in certain regions, higher sales of ice melt and other expanded services as offsetting the drop.

“It’s true that TruGreen’s performance has not been where we need it to be, but even with Steve’s decision to resign, we’re going to continue to work hard to meet our goals and grow our business rapidly by transforming our customers’ experience,” Curran said. – Chuck Bowen

Davey’s Reading Takes Root featured on Oprah Show
KENT, Ohio – Many people say their favorite place to read a book is under the cool shade of a tree. To honor that tradition, The Davey Tree Expert Co. is bringing that coveted experience to communities across the country.

On one of the final episodes of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show,’ Davey announced its Reading Takes Root program would donate and plant 25 large oak trees – symbolizing Winfrey’s 25 years on the air – on school grounds across the country. The plantings are in conjunction with school library renovations carried out by Target and The Heart of America Foundation.

The initial oak tree planting took place at the KIPP Believe School in New Orleans, with footage of the installation appearing as a surprise to Winfrey on her show.

Throughout the year, Davey will also plant 25,000 more trees across the United States.

“Davey is honored to celebrate ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ in this socially responsible initiative to plant reading trees for children in communities across the country,” said Karl Warnke, Davey’s chairman, president and CEO. “As these trees take root, we also hope the air will become cleaner, the cooling effects of shade will become broader, and the environmental and economic future of our nation’s communities will strengthen.”

The April Q&A with California Landscape Contractors Association President Bob Wade did not accurately reflect his comments. Find a complete version of the interview at, search “Wade,” or click here.

EMCOR Group buys USM Services Holdings
Norwalk, conn. – USM Services Holdings was sold to EMCOR Group (NYSE: EME) for an all-cash transaction worth $255 million.

Under former parent company Transfield Services Limited (ASE: TSE), USM grew to annual revenue of approximately $375 million. USM ranked 18th on Lawn & Landscape’s 2010 Top 100 list.

Headquartered in Norristown, Pa., USM provides facilities maintenance services, including interior and exterior services and electrical, mechanical and plumbing services to national and regional commercial customers that typically maintain more than 100 sites across wide geographic areas.

USM’s proprietary network includes more than 11,000 service partners, and it has approximately 150 customers in more than 75,000 locations in all 50 states and Canada.
“We are excited to be acquiring USM, which further strengthens EMCOR’s market leading position in facilities and maintenance services,” Tony Guzzi, president and CEO of EMCOR, said in a statement. “Our two businesses are highly complementary to each other, as USM is a leader in predictive, scheduled interior and exterior maintenance services, while EMCOR leads the market in providing site-based and mechanical services and other electrical and mechanical trades services.

“In an environment in which customers are increasingly looking to centralize their outsourcing with a quality provider, we will together offer a compelling, comprehensive value proposition that is unmatched in the marketplace.”

M&A activity grows
The acquisitions and mergers market has been hot this spring. Here’s some of the activity that has taken place.

  • The Davey Tree Expert Co. acquired Tree Health Professionals of Campbell, Calif. Tree Health Professionals will merge with Davey’s Santa Clara territory. The transaction is Davey’s 16th in the past five years.
  • Ultimate Services Professional Grounds Management bought Town & Gardens. Both landscaping firms are PLANET award winners for design, installation and maintenance services.
  • Kichler Lighting acquired Teron Lighting, a privately-owned manufacturer of commercial lighting products. The move will allow Kichler to better serve the commercial market.
  • Harmony Outdoor Living and MediumRare have co-joined their operations. The new venture means MediumRare will move its operations from Las Vegas to Burlington, Wis., where Harmony has maintained a production facility for years.

ASLA earns environmental excellence award

WASHINGTON – Washington Mayor Vincent C. Gray selected the American Society of Landscape Architects as a Partner of the Year for the 2011 Mayor’s Environmental Excellence Awards. The award recognizes ASLA  for its commitment to advancing sustainable principles in building design and operations.

“Mayor Gray and the District Department of the Environment are leading an aggressive effort to make Washington one of the most sustainable cities in the world,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville. “We’re proud to be a part and extremely honored by this recognition.”

ASLA was specifically recognized for its work in educating the public on sustainable practices in landscape design and construction.

Multiple ASLA programs helped the organization achieve those principles, including its Green Roof Demonstration Project, which is open to the public to tour for free and learn more about green roof systems, and the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), a partnership between ASLA, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Botanic Garden, which has created a rating system for sustainable landscapes. Currently 11 projects in the Washington area alone are participating in the SITES program.

Also among ASLA’s programs is the Design Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes, a new education resource that features animation, case studies and classroom activities to introduce students to green landscape design.

Aquascsape names new president

ST. CHARLES, Ill. – Colleen Heitzler was recently promoted from her position as chief operating officer to president of Aquascape. In her new position, Heitzler will focus on building Aquascape’s profitability.

“Colleen has proven her enthusiasm, loyalty and savvy as a leader in our company and the industry,” said Greg Wittstock, CEO and founder of Aquascape. “I’m proud to have her on our team in this extended role.”

Heitzler began her career with Aquascape in 2001 as controller.

“Aquascape is a forward-minded company with an exciting history of market development and industry leadership,” Heitzler said. “There is great deal of passion and talent on the team at Aquascape and it is a privilege to transition into the role of president.”

United Turf Alliance adds  grub insecticide
Atlanta – ArmorTech Guillotine, an insecticide providing preventive and curative control of both grubs and surface-feeding insects, is the latest addition to the United Turf Alliance selection of turf and ornamental protection products.

Guillotine is a water-dispersible granular formulation containing the active ingredient clothianidin.

It controls white grubs and other insects for an extended length of time due to low water solubility, and its ability to remain in the turf/soil interface area longer than other neonicotinoid chemistries such as imidacloprid. Guillotine is effective against most grub species as well as ants, billbugs, annual bluegrass weevils, armyworms, cutworms and southern chinch bugs, including those resistant to synthetic pyrethroid insecticides.

Classified as a general use insecticide, Guillotine equips turfgrass managers with a new weapon against turf-damaging insects. It is also labeled for use on ornamentals, interior plantscapes and non-bearing fruit and nut trees in a landscape environment.

NJLCA donates $11,000 to landscaper’s family

ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. – When Gail Woolcott read a recent newspaper article about Justin and Jason Leider and their family facing the diagnosis of Hunter Syndrome – a genetic disease which is severe, progressive and life-limiting – she knew exactly who to contact for help. Woolcott, director of operations for the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association, knew immediately that NJLCA members would rally behind the family, as the boys’ father, Jeff Leider, is a local landscape contractor at Echo Valley Landscape.

Within hours, Woolcott and NJLCA President Jody Shilan sent out a mass email to members and friends of the association asking for donations for the family to assist with medical, travel and incidental expenses arising from the boys’ diagnosis. At best, the boys, 2- and 4-years old, will face weekly intravenous treatments for the rest of their lives. Currently the syndrome has no cure.

The association set a goal of raising $5,000 for the family, and within two days surpassed that mark.

By the time the association’s leadership attended a charity dinner for the family on April 27, NJLCA members and friends had donated $11,025 to the cause.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our members to band together behind one of our own local contractors,” Woolcott said.

“Just like police officers and fireman, the green industry has its own brotherhood,” Shilan said. “We support the Leider family and will be with them throughout this journey.”