Investor Exit Triggered Mosquito Squad Sale
After selling Mosquito Squad to Authority Brands last month, the backyard bug control franchise’s former parent Outdoor Living Brands is now a fully management-owned enterprise and is refocusing its attention on growing its four remaining backyard-focused brands. Outdoor Living Brands CEO Chris Grandpre is a former M&A expert, so I was curious to ask him what it was like to be on the other side of the desk during a sale.
“I’m probably a more knowledgeable client than many who go through this process, but it was very hard,” Grandpre said. “It’s so different when … you’re the middle man in a transaction process, whereas you’re a principle in a business and you’re thinking through the impact on the company, on the people, on the franchisees—it’s a very emotionally draining process.”
During the time I spent at the OLB headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, for my profile of the company in the October issue of Franchise Times, Grandpre and President and COO Scott Zide were focused on growing the company through acquisitions, rather than selling any of its brands—let alone its largest and most well known, Mosquito Squad.
Asked to explain the sale, Grandpre said his management team was not expressly looking to divest Mosquito Squad, but rather that the impetus for the sale was one of Outdoor Living Brands’ original investors looking for a “liquidity event” to exit its involvement in the multi-branded franchisor.
“We couldn’t have dreamed of it at the time,” Grandpre said of our conversations back in April. “It doesn’t necessarily reflect a shift in strategy, it’s just reflected the reality of we were asked to engineer an exit for an investor and this was the right solution for them.”
Grandpre has known Authority Brands CEO Rob Weddle for years (it's based in nearby Maryland), and said he aims to maintain close ties with its leadership, which now includes Mosquito Squad Brand Leader Amy Lawhorne. That will be easy, as the Mosquito Squad team will be leasing space at the Outdoor Living Brands office for the next year.
In the wake of investor scrutiny, which Grandpre said was illuminating, he and Zide are focused on continued growth with the remaining four brands—Conserva Irrigation, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives, Archadeck and Renew Crew.
“What we’re going to do as a leadership team is take some of the feedback we gleaned from from this process, and good feedback and areas there were some concerns expressed, so we’re going to focus on those,” he added. “Archadeck and Outdoor Living Perspectives are great businesses and they’ve been around for many years, but we still hold a lot of white space and have a lot of growth we can drive.”
Mosquito Squad was Outdoor Living Brands’ largest brand on the Franchise Times Top 200+ with nearly $52 million in annual sales and 237 units at year-end 2017. Archadeck is close behind with more than $47 million in revenue from a stable of 56 units. Outdoor Lighting Perspectives comes in near the tail end of the ranking at No. 470, with approximately $25 million in sales from 58 locations.