John Deere Landscapes

Deere & Co. announced Monday that it has agreed to sell a majority interest in its landscapes business to the private equity investment firm of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC.

In a news release, Deere said that it will receive approximately $300 million in cash and initially will retain a 40 percent equity interest in the new company. In its own news release, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, or CD&R, said the carve-out transaction is valued at about $465 million. 

John Deere Landscapes has been included in the Moline-based company's agriculture and turf segment.

"This partial sale allows Deere an opportunity to remain as part of a successful landscapes distribution business," James Field, president of Deere’s Worldwide Agriculture & Turf Division, said in the release. “At the same time, Deere will continue to increase its own strategic focus on the global growth businesses in agriculture and construction and the complementary businesses in turf and forestry."

With more than $1 billion in annual revenue, John Deere Landscapes is the largest North American distributor of landscaping products sold primarily to professional landscape contractors. It distributes wholesale irrigation, landscape lighting, nursery, and turf and maintenance supplies. 

"CD&R's focus on growth and deep experience with businesses like ours make them an ideal partner," said David Werning, John Deere Landscapes president, who will retain his position. "Deere's ongoing equity ownership reflects its interest in remaining part of a successful landscapes distribution business."

David Wasserman, a partner with CD&R, said John Deere Landscapes is "managed by a talented executive team that we are very excited to has as partners." "The business has many attractive features, including scale, breadth of product offering and service excellence, all of which provide significant strategic and competitive advantages in supporting the requirements of the professional landscape contractor," he added.

Paul Pressler, a CD&R operating partner, will assume the role of chairman upon close of the transaction, which is expected in December.

"The new company should benefit from a recovery in residential and commercial construction activity as well as through the meaningful value creation opportunities available to drive the business forward," said Ken Giuriceo, a CD&R partner.

Deere formed the landscapes business in 2001 when it purchased and merged wholesalers McGinnis Farms Inc. and Richton International Corp. The business later expanded with the acquisitions of United Green Mark and LESCO, Inc., in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Today, John Deere Landscapes is one of the largest U.S. wholesale suppliers of turf and ornamental agronomics, irrigation, outdoor lighting, nursery and landscape materials.

John Deere Landscapes employs more than 2,000 people at about 400 locations in 41 states. The nearest location is in Rock Island.

Field said Deere recognized the investment firm's broad experience and successful record in distribution businesses and the firm’s longevity and experience in private equity.

Since its inception in 1978, CD&R has managed the investment of more than $18 billion in 56 U.S. and European businesses with an aggregate transaction value of more than $90 billion.

In an interview with the Quad-City Times, Deere spokesman Ken Golden said John Deere Landscapes employees "were told today there is no immediate impact on them. As in any business, future decisions could be made that will result in changes," he said.

The sale is unrelated to Deere's announcement last month that it is reviewing strategic options for the future of its John Deere Water business, which produces precision irrigation equipment for agriculture customers, Golden said.