Big deal done, Harvey Massey plows on

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After nearly 25 years in business in Orlando, Harvey Massey just closed the biggest deal of his career.

The chairman and chief executive of Massey Services Inc. acquired longtime competitor Middleton Lawn & Pest Control and the other brands operated by Sunair Services Corp. in a $54 million transaction that closed last week.

Now the combined company puts Massey at the helm of the fifth-largest pest-control and lawn-care business in North America.

The deal will further cement his profile as one of Orlando's most recognizable businessmen, having parlayed his financial success into powerful board seats in the community, a name as an influential political fundraiser and, yes, a sometimes-spontaneous entertainer at black-tie affairs. (He sings a mean rendition of Louis Armstrong's "Blueberry Hill.")

With his 68th birthday approaching three days after Christmas, Massey says he's never gotten the retirement bug.

"I don't have any interest in quitting," he said.

Instead, he and President and Chief Operating Officer Tony Massey, his 43-year-old son, plan to spend the next year or so integrating Middleton into the Massey name. A hint of Middleton may linger, however, with the Masseys saying they are looking for a way to use the familiar green Middleton frog in the Massey logo.

On Tuesday morning, several Middleton trucks were parked at Massey as employees underwent orientation at their new company. For those who know the history of the two Orlando-grown companies, Middleton employees inside the halls of Massey might be like seeing fish out of water.

Massey and Chuck Steinmetz, the longtime former owner of Middleton before it was sold to Sunair, met when they were both starting out at Orkin and remained friends, traveling the world together with their wives, while fiercely competing in business.

The combined company will have about 1,300 employees — Massey said he expects layoffs to be "minimal" — a fleet of 1,250 trucks and revenue of about $126 million.

The recession, he said, means much smaller growth this year for Massey than in years past.

"Our business is not as good as it was, but it's still growing," he said. "It's still profitable and still moving forward."

Outside of the office, Massey supports the local arts (he gave $1 million to the downtown performing arts center) and sports (he serves as president of the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation) and plays in the arena of political fundraising.

For the record, he is supporting Gov. Charlie Crist for U.S. Senate, hasn't yet taken a position on the governor's race and has so far publicly supported Bill Segal for Orange County mayor, though he likes Teresa Jacobs and expects her to shake things up if she enters the contest as expected early next year.

Massey has been known to be a rabble-rouser himself.

In 2006 he was appointed by Crist to finish out the remaining two years of a seat vacated by Allan Keen, the embattled former chairman of the Orange County Expressway Authority. There he wasn't afraid to speak his mind and call for change inside the agency.

But when Massey came up for reappointment, he told the governor to find someone else. He couldn't say so at the time, but his term ended about six months into his chase for Middleton.

"We were pursuing the biggest acquisition in our history," he said. "I couldn't let anybody know that. That was more important to me than serving on the expressway authority board."

Massey, however, isn't all about work. He owns cattle ranches and citrus groves and is as comfortable on a horse as he is on a golf course or ski slopes.

Ultimately, he says, life is about balance.

"I don't know any of those things, including work, that I want to do every day," he said.

Beth Kassab can be reached at bkassab@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5448. Read her blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/thebottomline.
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