By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, January 18, 2013
Longtime Atlanta builder Hardin Construction Co. is being acquired by DPR Construction, a national technical builder based in California.
The two companies will focus on expanding their operations in the Southeast and Texas, where both firms already have a local presence. The two companies have signed a letter of intent, and the acquisition is expected to close in March.
Hardin, founded in 1946 and now Atlanta’s fifth-largest builder based on revenue, has a portfolio of more than 1,400 projects. It has helped build a host of signature projects in Atlanta, including the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the Mall of Georgia, the Georgia World Congress Center, CNN Center, Terminus and the Arthur M. Blank Family Office.
DPR currently is one of the top 25 general contractors in the country, and it specializes in the construction of technology, health-care, higher education, corporate and life sciences facilities. For example, it has built Facebook data centers in North Carolina, Oregon and Sweden; and it has built the Scripps Research Center in Florida; Clemson University’s Bio-Science buildings and the Novelis research and design laboratory in Kennesaw.
Brantley Barrow, chairman of Hardin, said that the acquisition will give the company “access to new technical building markets” such as data centers and health-care facilities.
“Hardin is not going away,” Barrow said. “We plan on continuing our legacy building in Atlanta. And we plan to be as active in the community as we have been in the past.”
DPR, founded in 1990 by Doug Woods, Peter Nosler and Ron Davidowski, has 2,700 employees working in 17 offices around the country. Its projected revenue for 2013 is about $2.4 billion.
By comparison, Hardin has a total of 300 employees working in offices based in Atlanta; Tampa and Orlando, Fla.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Austin, Texas. Its projected revenues for 2013 is about $450 million.
Both companies are privately held, and they are not disclosing terms of the transaction. Hardin projects currently under construction will be completed as Hardin Construction, including joint venture projects, once the acquisition is complete.
Eric Lamb, executive vice president of DPR Construction, who has been involved in conducting the due diligence of the acquisition, said DPR had wanted to expand its operations in the Southeast.
Lamb said it has not yet been decided how the combined entity will be branded in the Southeast, but he said the plan is to keep the Hardin name as part of that brand.
“We strongly believe the Hardin name has a lot of value in the Southeast,” Lamb said, adding that the Hardin name would live on for “an indefinite period of time.”
Barrow said the DPR combination will open more opportunities for Hardin.
“They are much larger than we are,” Barrow said.
Lamb also said that the cultures of both companies are similar.
“We have known the Hardin folks and management for about 15 years,” Lamb said. “We have got a large amount of respect for Hardin. Our primary purpose is to expand our scale in the Southeast.”
Lamb said that DPR is an employee-owned company with more than 100 shareholders. “We are giving some Hardin employees the opportunity to become shareholders of DPR,” he added.
For nearly 50 years, Hardin was a family-owned business that was started by Ira Hardin. His son, Allen Hardin, built the firm into the second-largest construction company based in Atlanta. The younger Hardin chaired what is now the Metro Atlanta Chamber in the early 1970s and was one of the first chairmen of MARTA’s board.
Then in 1993, a group of managers led by Earl Shell acquired the company’s stock from Allen Hardin. Barrow and William Pinto were among the management group that bought the company.
Then in 2007, Shell retired as the company’s chairman and CEO, selling his ownership to the company’s shareholders. At that time, Barrow and Pinto became the two top executives of the firm.
With the planned sale to DPR, Barrow said that he and Pinto will stay with the combined company. But it has not yet been determined what titles or roles they will have with the DPR-Hardin operation.
“Bill and I will both be around for several years, and we will still be part of the Atlanta community,” Barrow said. “It’s been a pleasure and a lot of fun to watch Atlanta change and be part of that growth.”