Over the five years that the Riverside Co. owned utility services provider Area Wide Protective, the private equity firm worked closely with management to execute an aggressive growth plan that included 11 strategic acquisitions. Under Riverside’s ownership, AWP grew from 2,000 employees to 5,000 and tripled its number of facilities. In December, Kohlberg & Co. bought the company, with partner Benjamin Mao saying: AWP has “established itself as the leading traffic control platform in North America. Paired with Kohlberg’s utility services background, we believe AWP is well-positioned to accelerate growth and to bolster a national footprint.”

Re-Routing Traffic
Headquartered in North Canton, Ohio, AWP provides traffic control and safety services to electric and gas utilities and to telecommunications and infrastructure customers. With over 5,000 employees in more than 110 facilities across 20-plus states and eastern Canada, AWP helps direct or re-route traffic in support of infrastructure maintenance, repair, or construction projects affecting public roads. The company provides on-site technicians, equipment and vehicles, and permitting and design services.

In conjunction with the transaction closing, John Sypek, who led AWP as CEO since 2012, retired from executive duties but remains with the company as vice chairman. Ron Childress was named the company’s chairman and CEO. Childress joined AWP following a 30-year career at Osmose Utilities Services, where he most recently served as CEO.

Strategic Capital
In January, Riverside’s Strategic Capital Fund made a minority investment in Area Wide Protective (AWP) in connection with Kohlberg’s acquisition. The investment represents the fourth time Riverside Strategic Capital has invested in a company that was formerly owned by one of Riverside’s buyout funds. The history with AWP puts strategic capital group in “a unique position due to its deep familiarity with the business and the management team,” according to the firm, which is based in Cleveland, Ohio, and New York.