ValleyCrest Companies - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on ValleyCrest Companies



24151 Ventura Boulevard
Calabasas
California
91302
U.S.A.

Company Perspectives

With more than 50 years of experience, no landscape company in America can claim greater depth of expertise or a more comprehensive track record of effective problem-solving and consistent execution. While the size and scope of our projects has expanded, we have never lost sight of our core values: customer service; continual innovation; flawless execution; attention to detail.

History of ValleyCrest Companies

ValleyCrest Companies is the largest privately owned landscape company in the United States. The company operates through a half-dozen business units that offer a full range of landscape services, including design, development, and maintenance. Prominent projects completed by the company include landscape work for The Getty Center, the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. The company also operates a retail nursery and provides maintenance services to golf courses. ValleyCrest Companies operates 100 branch offices nationwide and through its sole subsidiary, U.S. Lawns, oversees 151 franchises. The company is owned and managed by the Sperber family.

Origins

A landscaping giant, ValleyCrest represented the life's work of Burton S. Sperber, an innovator in his field who demonstrated a steadfast commitment to expanding his business. Sperber's more than half-century of involvement in the landscaping industry began while he was attending North Hollywood High School in southern California's San Fernando Valley. Sperber took a part-time job at a small local nursery named MG Nursery, where he spent his hours after school planting shrubs, seeding and mowing lawns, and transplanting trees. His part-time job turned into the start of an entrepreneurial career when the owner of the nursery died in 1949. The owner's widow offered to sell the business to the 19-year-old Sperber, and Sperber, after gaining the support of his father, agreed, paying $700 for the business and old pickup truck. The father-and-son team rechristened the business "Valley Crest Landscape Nurseries Inc.," confident that postwar economic growth would fuel the expansion of the business. Their expectations were confirmed within a matter of months: "The San Fernando Valley started booming with houses," Sperber recalled in an October 2005 interview with Calabasas Magazine. "When I started out, the Valley was predominantly agricultural. As homes and communities were built, fruit-tree groves were replaced by landscaped parks, schools, freeways, and subdivisions."

Valley Crest Landscape Nurseries established itself as something far more than a local nursery during the 1950s. Initially, Sperber attended to the landscaping and tree-moving functions of the business, while his father ran the nursery. Soon after starting out, however, the growth of the business required more than the simple division of labor between two partners. The Sperbers seized the opportunity presented by the energetic development of the San Fernando Valley, securing contracts to landscape the region's schools and along the freeways. The company's operational foundation expanded explosively as a result, giving the Sperbers a growing inventory of the tools of their trade--the tractors, hand tools, and maintenance equipment required for large-scale projects. By the end of the decade, the small nursery had been thoroughly transformed, taking aim at a highly fragmented industry to become one of its leaders. Shortening its name to "Valley Crest Landscape Inc." in 1959, the company was poised for expansion in the coming decade, as it solicited contracts for an ever widening array of jobs, including landscape design, commercial and industrial projects, model home development, and golf course development.

The 1960s witnessed profound growth, both in the scope of the company's operations and in the development of its corporate structure. Any vestige of a small, local nursery was swept away during the decade, as the company began an expansion program that would ultimately see it compete on a national basis, a rarity in the fragmented landscape industry. At the start of the 1960s, Valley Crest Landscape began to adopt a layered corporate structure, adding the business units that gave it a broadly based attack on the landscape market. The company had pioneered the practice of growing trees in boxes, thereby enabling year-round planting, which became the exclusive purview of Valley Crest Tree Company. Formed in 1961 with the help of Burton Sperber's brother, Stuart Sperber, Valley Crest Tree initially was established to supply the landscaping business with trees, but its Sepulveda, California-based operations soon began serving the needs of other companies. Significant geographic expansion also occurred during the decade as the company used a branch system to widen its area of influence. In 1964, Valley Crest Landscape opened an office in Santa Ana to handle the company's business in Orange County. The establishment of a computerized information system occurred the following year, giving the Sperbers and their growing management team the ability to connect offices together as the company pushed beyond the borders of California.

Valley Crest Landscape, becoming bigger with each passing year, possessed the resources to bid for large-scale projects by the 1960s. High-profile landscape projects became the company's forte, and one of the first to be completed occurred during the 1960s. In 1966, Valley Crest Landscape was awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to landscape Rossmoor Leisure World in northern California, one of the largest retirement communities in the United States at the time. Other major projects followed, giving the company the opportunity to hone its skills in designing and building complete gardens featuring ponds, waterfalls, and fence overhangs.



Formation of Holding Company: 1969

One result of Valley Crest Landscape's reliance on large-scale projects was that the company itself was forced to evolve to handle the demands of its high-profile clientele. The company became a genuine corporation, taking on the attributes of a modern, sophisticated business. In 1969, the Sperbers aped the corporate trend of the day and formed a holding company, Environmental Industries Inc., which became the new banner under which its various landscape activities were conducted. One year later, Environmental Industries was organized into three divisions, giving the Sperbers the organizational structure capable of taking on large-scale projects. Environmental Care Inc. became the entity dedicated to providing landscape maintenance services. Valley Crest, the heart of Environmental Industries, retained its control over landscape construction activities. Valley Crest Tree, as it had since 1961, focused on providing nursery services. The Sperbers took the newly structured company public to finance expansion, but operating in the public sector did not suit the family and the stock was purchased a decade later to return the company to its status as a private company. "The company was too small and every time the earnings would go up the stock would go down," Burton Sperber lamented in a December 14, 1998 interview with Forbes.

The Sperbers settled into their more comfortable role as managers of a private company and led Environmental Industries toward prominence during the last decades of the 20th century. Expansion continued throughout the 1980s, as the company settled into a new headquarters location in Calabasas at the start of the decade, a facility ringed by Date Palm trees transplanted from the Canary Islands. Its most ambitious projects were taken on during the 1990s, a decade of numerous achievements for the 40-year-old company. In 1990, Environmental Industries formed Environmental Golf to oversee the company's golf construction and maintenance contracts. Through the newly formed business unit, the Sperbers owned, built, managed, and maintained golf courses, eventually building and managing more than 600 golf courses before the family sold its interests in the properties except for one golf course, Glen Annie Golf Course in Santa Barbara, California. The company also entered the franchising business by acquiring U.S. Lawns in 1996. Based in Florida, U.S. Lawns became an Environmental Industries subsidiary offering lawn and landscape franchises on a national basis.

On other fronts, the company was involved in major projects that only a few of its competitors could hope to undertake. For the Atlantis Paradise Island casino in the Bahamas, Environmental Industries uprooted 1,500 coconut palms from Jamaica, transported them by barge to the Bahamas, and planted them on the Atlantis Paradise Island property. The company re-sodded Atlanta's Olympic Stadium after the opening ceremonies of the XXVI Summer Olympic Games, landscaped Steve Wynn's Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, and developed 400 acres for Walt Disney Co.'s Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida. One of its mostly highly regarded projects of the decade was the development of 130 acres of ground surrounding the Getty Center in Los Angeles. A seven-year, $10 million contract, the project involved the planting of a two-acre azalea garden floating in a reflecting pool, the installation of an elaborate irrigation system, and the planting of several thousand trees. "We do God's work," Stuart Sperber said in a December 14, 1998 interview with Forbes. "We really do."

By the end of the 1990s, Environmental Industries could lay claim to being the largest company of its kind in the private sector. Annual revenues reached $425 million as 50th anniversary celebrations were underway, a total drawn from the company's sprawling operations. Environmental Industries boasted nine regional offices and 37 branch offices in seven states. Its nursery operations comprised 1,500 acres in Sylmar, Farmington, and Irvine, California, which produced more than three million trees, roughly 90 percent of which were sold to other companies. Its landscaping maintenance business unit provided services to more than 6,000 indoor and outdoor gardens. The company's financial mainstay was its landscape construction segment, accounting for 70 percent of the overall revenues. "Some people call us a conglomerate," Burton Sperber remarked in a November 3, 1997 interview with the Los Angeles Business Journal. "But all of our company's functions are pretty much similar; they tie together to do site beautification work." The only other company in the landscape industry that approached the size and scope of Environmental Industries was LandCare USA, a rival the Sperbers shrugged aside as they led the company into the next century.

ValleyCrest in the 21st Century

Environmental Industries' progress during the first years of the 21st century was highlighted by acquisitions and a company-wide reorganization. The company approached its growth phase ranking as the largest site development, landscape, and horticultural services contractor in the country. In 2000, Environmental Industries strengthened its presence on the East Coast with the purchase of Oakton, Virginia-based STM Landscape Services, a $12 million-in-sales contractor. The acquisition was hailed by Burton Sperber's son, Richard Sperber, who had risen through the company's ranks to become vice-president and chief operating officer at the time of the acquisition. "With this acquisition," Richard Sperber said in a February 3, 2000 interview with Daily News, "we can provide superb competitive advantages to a larger segment of the business community and dramatically expand our reach throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and the greater District of Columbia." (STM Landscape Services, after a name change in 2003, became ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance.) Next, the company completed a much larger acquisition, purchasing the TruGreen LandCare assets owned by ServiceMaster Company. The acquisition, completed in 2001, gave Environmental Industries landscape construction operations in Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, Virginia, and Maryland, increasing its payroll to more than 7,000 employees and lifting annual revenues to nearly $600 million.

Pressing ahead, Environmental Industries aimed its sights on the $1 billion mark, a financial goal it would pursue after re-branding its identity in 2002. "The driving force for the re-branding is to simplify the way customers view us and better communicate the scope of the company's services," Burton Sperber announced in an October 1, 2002 company press release. "We want people to instantly recognize ValleyCrest as the nation's leading landscape resource when they see our new red truck fleet and uniformed workforce whether they are on a golf course, at a hotel, around the corporate campus, or in their neighborhood." The only entities within the organization unaffected by the name change were U.S. Lawns and Valley Crest Tree Company. Every other aspect of the Sperbers' business was given the "ValleyCrest" name, starting with the holding company, which changed its name from Environmental Industries to ValleyCrest Companies. Environmental Care, the landscape maintenance division with 60 offices in 17 states, became ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance. Environmental Golf, which provided maintenance services to more than 50 golf courses, became ValleyCrest Golf Maintenance. Valley Crest, the nation's largest landscape construction company, became ValleyCrest Landscape Development. The company's landscape-design activities were grouped within its ValleyCrest Landscape Architecture business unit.

In the wake of adopting a unified image for the company, the Sperbers continued their acquisition campaign. In 2004, the company acquired Omni Landscape Group and organized its assets within the ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance business unit. The acquisition, which added $50 million in annual revenue, consisted of operations in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey. In 2006, the company acquired two landscape architecture companies, HRP LanDesign, based in California, and Site Works, based in Alabama. Richard Sperber, who had previously been promoted to president of ValleyCrest Companies, explained the strategic importance of the acquisitions in a March 1, 2006 company press release. "We believe that, similar to trends in other sectors of the construction market, design-build will play an increasingly important role in the landscape industry in the next several years." As ValleyCrest Companies moved forward, with Richard Sperber expected to inherit the reins of command from his father, it was likely that the nation's largest landscape development company would continue to hold sway well into the future.

Principal Subsidiaries

U.S. Lawns.

Principal Operating Units

ValleyCrest Landscape Development; ValleyCrest Landscape Architecture; ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance; ValleyCrest Golf Course Maintenance; Estate Gardens By ValleyCrest; Valley Crest Tree Company.

Principal Competitors

The Davey Tree Expert Company; OneSource Landscape and Golf Services, Inc.; TruGreen LandCare L.L.C.

Chronology

Additional Details

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