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Southern gentleman R. Randall Rollins – an Atlanta business leader and philanthropist – dies after short illness

Maria Saporta
R. Randall Rollins and Gary Rollins at the 2017 Rollins annual meeting (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta has lost one of its true Southern gentlemen with the passing of R. Randall Rollins, the chairman of Rollins Inc.

Randall Rollins, 88, died Aug. 17 after a short illness, according to a notice posted by the company that said he was surrounded by family.

“It’s going to be a great loss,” said Jimmy Williams, retired CEO of SunTrust Banks who is a longtime director on the Rollins board. “He was a wonderful man and a wonderful friend. His philanthropy has just been overwhelming.”

Randall and Gary Rollins

Randall and Gary Rollins at the Rollins 2017 annual meeting (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Williams said he has known Randall Rollins since the 1960s, and they served on each other’s corporate boards. “He sure lived a wonderful life,” Williams said.

The company announced that Gary Rollins, his younger brother and vice chairman of the Rollins board, will continue in that role until succession plans are announced.

“The loss of Randall is felt profoundly, not only by our family, his friends and me, but also by generations of Rollins’ employees and colleagues who had the privilege of knowing him during his over 70 years of devotion to the Rollins companies,” said Gary Rollins, who also serves as Rollins’ CEO.  “He exemplified the principles of integrity, innovation and dedication instilled by our father O. Wayne Rollins, who co-founded the company with his brother, John.”

The Rollins family built a robust business. Rollins, which operates the Orkin pest control business, has annual sales of about $2 billion. Also, Forbes Magazine estimates that Randall Rollins was worth about $5.1 billion and ranked him as No. 538 among the world’s billionaires.

The last time I saw Randall Rollins was on April 28 at the company’s annual meeting. Only six people attended the annual meeting – the two Rollins brothers, three executives and this reporter – everyone spaced well apart. All the other board members participated via a conference call.

“This is all new to us,” Randall Rollins said as he chaired the Rollins annual meeting, held in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two other sister companies – Marine Products Corp. and RPC Inc. – also held back-to-back annual meetings on the same day, giving the Rollins brothers an opportunity to interact with those present in between the annual meetings (each lasting less than 10 minutes).

For the most part, the companies have overlapping directors and executives with the Rollins brothers as key owners and directors overseeing the operations – creating a familial feel to the annual meetings, which took place in a meeting room in the company’s headquarters on Piedmont Avenue.

“Randall’s deep sense of loyalty and appreciation of our valued employees and our businesses will be missed,” Gary Rollins continued in a statement. “His strong moral compass and expansive business knowledge allowed him to steer many successful public and private companies in a variety of industries.  He was always willing to consider something new, and if he became involved, he was determined to leave it better than he found it.”

The company’s release said that following high school, Randall Rollins received an early business education while working for his uncle, John W. Rollins and his father, O. Wayne Rollins in their various start-up businesses in Delaware.

Randall Rollins later enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard. Immediately following his military service, he married the former Peggy Hastings and resumed his business career working for his uncle at Rollins Leasing and his father at Rollins Broadcasting both located in Wilmington, Deleware.

As Rollins Broadcasting expanded, Mr. Rollins grew with it, working to expand the family’s radio and television business.  In a move that shocked the business world and would ultimately be described as the first leveraged buyout in American business history, Rollins Broadcasting purchased Orkin Pest Control in 1964 and soon diversified into other service industries.

Randall Rollins sits at the head table with Beth Chandler, the corporate secretary. Sitting more than six feet apart in the audience are: (L-R) Eddie Northen, the CFO; Gary Rollins, CEO; and John Wilson, the president and COO (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Following a corporate move from Wilmington, Delaware to Atlanta, Randall Rollins ultimately headed this new business and for many years juggled his Orkin responsibilities with his brother Gary, while at the same time growing the media business, successfully expanding into outdoor advertising and cable television.

Working alongside his father, Randall was instrumental in the successful transformation of the original broadcasting company into a more diversified service and media business which earned him a position on Rollins’ board.  Later as Rollins, Inc. entered the oil field service business, Randall also assumed responsibility for this new venture.

In 1984, Rollins, Inc. split into three separate public companies: Rollins Inc. (pest control), Rollins Communications Inc. (Broadcasting and Outdoor Advertising), and RPC Energy Services Inc. (oil and gas services).  Randall Rollins became president and CEO of Rollins Communications as well as board chairman, CEO and president of RPC Energy Services Inc.

Following the death of his father in 1991, Randall Rollins became board chair of Rollins Inc. In 2001, he also became became chair of Marine Products Corp.’s board after it was spun-off from RPC Inc.

Randall Rollins also oversaw the operations of the family’s numerous private companies and investments, including Hydradyne and Rollins Ranches.

Randall Rollins served on a number of public company boards, including SunTrust Banks, Gold Kist, Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment and Dover Motorsports.

He also served on the board of trustees of several educational institutions, including Emory University, Berry College and the Lovett School, as well as the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center Fund.

Randall Rollins participated in a number of philanthropic endeavors, which have deeply impacted a wide range of educational, health care and other community efforts. Notable among these beneficiaries are Emory University, Berry College, Young Harris College, the Rollins Child Development Center, Winship Cancer Institute, Beebe Healthcare and Peachtree Road United Methodist Church where he was an active, long-time member.

Through his philanthropic efforts and participation with universities and educational institutions. Rollins clearly valued education, even though he never acquired a college degree. He was honored to accept the honorary Doctor of Humane Letter degree from Emory University in May 2015.

Randall Rollins was preceded in death by his parents, O. Wayne and Grace Crum Rollins, and his daughter, Rita Anne Rollins. He is survived by Peggy Hastings Rollins, his wife of 67 years, his children, Richard Rollins, Pamela Rollins, Robert Rollins, Timothy (Andrea) Rollins, Amy Rollins Kreisler (Nevin), his brother Gary W. Rollins (Kathleen), 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Friends and colleagues are welcome to send memories and condolences to rrrcondolences@rollins.com.

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Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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