When Looby Construction began building bridges in Ontario, in 1904, there were few “horseless carriages” in rural parts of the Province. In fact the Spara Capital Partners divestiture client; a third-generation, Dublin-based Company, built those early structures exclusively for horse-drawn wagons and tractors.
Today, some thousand structures later (both bridges and culverts), Looby Construction remains one of Ontario’s top bridge construction specialists. The Company has created a legacy and reputation of safety and high quality workmanship, building structures, almost-exclusively, for the Ministry of Transportation (‘MTO’). Many have described the MTO as the toughest, most-discerning bridge owner in the world. Looby’s reputation for excellence in Ontario’s bridge construction sector and focus in an MTO environment was a chief driver in the recent acquisition of Looby Construction by EllisDon Corporation, one of Canada’s largest construction firms.
“A lot has changed over the past century, through three generations of my family’s ownership,” said Joe Looby, grandson of the Company’s founder and sole shareholder. “The civil infrastructure sector is becoming increasingly complex. Projects are growing in size and scope and non-traditional ownership models are being deployed. It is important that our firm remain a competitive, viable leader into the future, but we had grown to a size and stage where we needed corporate support, resources and capital,” he continued.
Looby set out to find a strategic advisor and found Spara Capital Partners.
Spara realized the importance of culture to EllisDon. They ran a strong process and worked with their client to communicate our cultural alignment without creating animosity between the parties. We were able to get this transaction done, on a timely basis, and look forward to working with them in the future.
Geoff Smith, President and CEO of EllisDon
“The Spara team had completed several deals in the construction & construction services sector and I liked their approach, said Looby. “They had a strong process for entrepreneurs that considered all strategic options. I liked their hands-on effort and found throughout the transaction just how hard they worked to managed all elements of the deal,” he added.
“The most critical element in any ‘marriage’ in this sector is cultural fit. Spara created a process to ensure congruent culture with prospective buyers before wasting time and the sharing of sensitive information, given that we were looking at strategic buyers. On the basis of like-culture, EllisDon was a strong candidate from the onset so it makes sense that we’d end up selling to them,” he added.
I highly-recommend the Spara team, they are professional and dedicated… I felt fully supported by Spara and never felt pressure to concede on a position…
Joe Looby, Looby Construction
EllisDon is a leading employee-owned global company delivering construction expertise, services and specialized support to clients throughout the world. Completing in excess of $2.5 billion in new construction annually, EllisDon employs approximately 1,000 people and has a presence in Canada and the United States, as well as offices in the West Indies and the United Arab Emirate. EllisDon’s Senior Vice President, Heavy Civil Division, Stephen Damp knew Looby Construction well. Prior to joining EllisDon, Damp had held a senior position with a direct competitor of Looby Construction for many years.
“We saw Looby as a platform from which to expand our heavy civil and structural division,” said Damp. “We saw it as a chance to leverage Looby’s reputation as a niche leader and continue to see some great synergies here,” he added.
Joe Looby was pleased with the transaction’s terms and structure (details of which were not disclosed) and found himself well served by Spara. “I highly-recommend the Spara team, they are professional and dedicated,” said Looby. “Spara provided sound counsel and brought serious confidence, experience and tenacity that drove this deal forward. I felt fully supported by Spara and never felt pressure to concede on a position or accept a proposal I wasn’t completely happy with,’ he added.
EllisDon also commented on Spara’s approach and focus on completing the transaction in a structure and on terms that balances the needs of both parties. “Spara realized the importance of culture to EllisDon,” said Geoff Smith, President and CEO of EllisDon. “They ran a strong process and worked with their client to communicate our cultural alignment without creating animosity between the parties. We were able to get this transaction done, on a timely basis, and look forward to working with them in the future,” he added.
Looby Construction has established its bridge to the future via its sale to EllisDon, allowing the Company to make the transition from small family-owned independent to a significant division within a large, well-capitalized enterprise.
While Joe Looby can’t say for certain what the next hundred years will bring, he is confident that the legacy of his family’s business will continue to play an important role in bridge and structure construction across Ontario (and likely beyond) well into the future.