Private equity firm acquires Signature Landscape Services

A former ValleyCrest executive stakes his claim in the northwest and looks to build a West Coast company.

May 20, 2015

REDMOND, Wash. – A former ValleyCrest executive has partnered with a private equity company to purchase Signature Landscape Services, and has his sights set on expanding down the West Coast. 

Brian Helgoe left ValleyCrest in July of 2014 after nine years with the company, where he served as vice president of operations for the landscape development division, vice president regional manager for the maintenance business in Los Angeles and most recently as vice president for snow markets.  

“When I look at the Signature team, what attracted me was experienced landscapers running a company that was really focused on customer service and quality. When I interviewed customers, they mentioned the quality of work, the relationships managers have with them,” says Helgoe, who takes the reins as CEO. “The guys here have fun with each other, and if you’re having fun, a lot of things have to be going right.”

The deal closed May 1, and was facilitated by CCG Advisors, the four industry transaction in the last 18 months for the Atlanta-based M&A firm. The acquisition adds One Rock Capital – a $430 million fund based in New York – to the growing list of private equity companies investing in the landscape industry. 

“One Rock has committed capital to move into the landscaping industry in a fairly big way,” Helgoe says. “We definitely have a lot of green grass in front of us, so to speak, to make a move into Oregon and California as well.” 

Signature Landscape Services was created in 2001 by the merger of two smaller landscape firms – Henning Landscape Services and Lake East Grounds Maintenance – and was operated by a team of owner/partners. Will Bailey, the 43-year-old general manager, says the rest of the ownership group is in their 60s, and were looking to retire.

“(The acquisition) allows me to grow the business more aggressively. My partners, being in their early to mid-60s, were relatively conservative. We were holding back from larger contracts and not even bidding on some,” Bailey says. “Now … we can get a little more aggressive in the marketplace, grow faster and provide more opportunities to the people that I’ve worked with for the last 12 years. That’s particularly exciting.”

With the acquisition, two of the former owners will stay on as the head of marketing and financial controller; the other two have retired. 

Signature has grown on average 15 percent since it was formed in 2001, Bailey says, but he would not disclose current revenue. The firm operates out of three branches in the Seattle market, providing maintenance, irrigation services and enhancements services to commercial clients. It employs 108 people full time and another 52 seasonally.