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Shamrock Materials sold to Vulcan

Petaluma-based Shamrock Materials, started six decades ago and one of the largest suppliers of concrete and paving materials to North Bay contractors, has been sold to giant Alabama-based construction-materials company.

With Shamrock, Vulcan Materials (NYSE: VMC) picked up concrete, rock, sand and gravel facilities in Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties, company spokeswoman Atisthan Roach said. That includes ready-mix plants in San Rafael, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Cloverdale and Napa; building-materials sites in Cotati and San Rafael; and a materials depot on Landing Way along the Petaluma River.

The Shamrock deal, signed March 20, was one of three acquisitions in California and Tennessee that Birmingham, Ala.-based Vulcan closed in the first quarter of this year for $185.1 million, according to Roach and regulatory filings. Further financial details weren't disclosed.

“This acquisition has provided us a way to get into ready-mix right there in California,” Roach said about Shamrock.

Vulcan is the nation's largest producer of aggregate rock for construction and California's largest asphalt supplier. The company also is a major player in supplying ready-mixed concrete in Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the Bahamas.

The Shamrock name will remain, and Vulcan hired “many” of its employees, Roach said. Gene Ceccotti, 70, son of late founder Lee Ceccotti and president for 39 years, moved on after the deal, but Jeff Nehmans was promoted from operations chief to vice president and general manager, reporting to Glendale-based Western Division President Brock Lodge.

“We started getting inquiries from several well-qualified buyers in 2013, with an interest in our brand and market presence along with the fact that we had the largest inland marine barge fleet in the Bay Area,” said Gene Ceccotti, in a statement released May 25. The family brought in San Diego-based investment bank The Greystone Group to field the inquiries. “In the end, it became clear that Vulcan would be an excellent cultural fit for our customers and employees and I was very pleased that Vulcan retained nearly all of our employees as well as the business name Shamrock Materials.”

‘END OF AN ERA'

“It's another end of an era,” said Mike Ghilotti, president of San Rafael-based general engineering contractor Ghilotti Bros., whose founders also were early partners in Shamrock.

But Ghilotti said he's glad Vulcan was the buyer. Like the Petaluma company, Vulcan in California sells the material but doesn't do projects, unlike some other major suppliers in the state.

“Many material suppliers are vertically integrated, and that poses a problem,” Ghilotti said.

For contractors to get quotes from a supplier that would be submitting its own bids for the same projects would be highly competitive, he said.

As it is, the North Bay has relatively few quarries, and adding or expanding them has been an uphill battle for some suppliers.

For example, John Barella's Roblar Road quarry west of Cotati has been stalled with various environmental studies for years. Also, Syar Industries of Napa and Dutra Materials of San Rafael spent years in regulatory or legal battles over seasonal gravel mining in the Russian River and a still-to-be-built asphalt plant in south Petaluma, respectively.

Vulcan has operations in Pleasanton, Half Moon Bay, South Bay and the Sacramento area.

“This acquisition allows us to connect those locations,” Roach said.

Shamrock has been a “rock” of the North Bay construction community, said John Bly, executive vice president of Northern California Engineering Contractors Association. “Their history and giveback to the community and employment has been important for the North Bay. I hope none of that changes.”

BOTH GROW BY ACQUISITION

Lee Ceccotti started Shamrock Materials in 1954 and died in September at age 97. The contractor association posthumously gave him a lifetime achievement award this year.

Shamrock acquired several companies in the past four decades: Sebastopol Ready-Mix, McPhail Ready-Mix & Building Materials and NorCal Ready Mix, Pioneer Ready Mix, Cloverdale Ready-Mix, Cotati Ready Mix, Santa Rosa Building Materials, Basalt Napa Ready-Mix and Vallejo Ready-Mix.

In 2002 amid greater regulatory challenges in mining gravel from the Russian River, Shamrock started an import business to get aggregate for its concrete. The company operates barges to ferry gravel from barges in San Francisco Bay up Petaluma River to a depot on Landing Way in Petaluma.

Vulcan Materials also has growth acquisition. It is part of the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index of key drivers of the U.S. economy. Total revenues last year were $3.59 billion, up 5 percent from 2015.

Vulcan operated 337 aggregate facilities in 20 states at the end of last year, after $33 million in acquisitions in New Mexico, Texas and Georgia. In California alone, the company owned 59 facilities before the Shamrock purchase, mostly run under their original names.

In addition to Shamrock, Vulcan in the first quarter of this year purchased Lebanon, Tenn.-based LoJac Holdings Corp., according to The Tennessean of Nashville.

Started in 1909 as Birmingham Slag Company, Vulcan went public in 1956 in a merger with Vulcan Detinning Co. of New Jersey. It has grown primarily by mergers and acquisitions since. The company leaped to the front of the asphalt mix market with the acquisition of CalMat in California and Arizona in 1999, but the largest deal was for Florida Rock Industries in 2007.

Jeff Quackenbush (jquackenbush@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4256) covers construction, commercial real estate and wine.

Correction, May 25, 2017: Vulcan Materials Company didn't acquire Shamrock Materials' sand and gravel business on the east bank of the Russian River near Cloverdale but did buy the 16-acre property there, with its ready-mixed concrete plant. A spokeswoman clarified that detail after publication of the original story.

Update, May 25, 2017: The Greystone Group released a statement from Gene Ceccotti with background on Shamrock Materials' growth over the decades.

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