Atlanta Business Chronicle
by Douglas Sams, Commercial Real Estate Editor
Date: Friday, December 7, 2012, 6:00am EST
Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s new company has locked up its first acquisition, a 78-year-old Atlanta trucking company with a big footprint across the Southeast.
Perdue Partners LLC, launched in the spring of 2011, is acquiring Benton Express Inc., a midsized logistics company with annual revenues exceeding $50 million, more than 500 employees and a fleet of 300 trucks.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
The deal injects fresh capital into Benton Express, whose revenues fell after the recession and remained down amid the slow recovery. The acquisition also reflects Perdue Partners’ bet that Georgia’s small businesses are set to play a much larger role in global commerce as the economy strengthens.
“When you distill all of this down to the basics, this is about logistics,” Perdue said. “This is a logistics company first and foremost that is dealing with small businesses, and we think they are where the growth is going to be for international exports.”
The deal also reflects the belief in a rebounding Southeast economy, where access to East Coast ports, including the Port of Savannah, leaves it well-positioned to benefit from the expansion of global consumerism, especially in countries such as China and India.
Perdue Partners will take a lead role in the trucking company’s day-to-day operations. Benton Express was struggling to find new capital amid the difficult lending environment, and its challenges reflected broader stress within the trucking industry. It was hit by a wave of bankruptcy and consolidations between 2009 and 2011. The primary reasons were surging fuel prices, declining consumer demand and excess capacity. The industry’s fundamentals, however, have started to accelerate. Consumer demand picked up in the latter half of the year. Some of the weaker players have worked their way out of the business. And drayage activity, or the transport of goods, continues to pick up between Atlanta and Savannah, site of one of the busiest ports in the United States, said Bob Robers, an Atlanta-based supply chain and logistics consultant.
“Capacity is getting tighter, rates are going up, and that’s where there’s money to be made,” Robers said.
Another positive is manufacturing growth across the Southeast. “When I look at the infrastructure around the aerospace, electronics and other industries, that creates logistics opportunities for small trucking companies,” co-founder David Perdue said. Many of those products may be destined for overseas. “This gives us a bigger entrée into the global supply chain,” David Perdue said.
Trey Childress, who served as the state’s chief operating officer for Gov. Perdue and Gov. Nathan Deal, will serve as the new president of Benton Express. First priorities include refreshing the fleet, optimizing routes and looking for new pricing opportunities. Benton Express has been a successful trucking company dating back to the 1930s. But, the economic slowdown and the difficulty accessing capital were challenges.
“They have been through a very difficult recession. They have done everything they can to survive it,” said Heidi Green, a founding partner of Perdue Partners and former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Family-owned logistics company serves customers around the Southeast
Benton has a 78-year heritage as a family-owned and operated Less-Than-a-Truckload (LTL) carrier that built a strong reputation under the leadership of Herb Matthews, Sr. and his son, Chip Matthews. With annual revenues exceeding $50 million, Benton has a leading market position in the Southeast with over 6,000 points serviced by more than 20 terminals. The company has a diversified base of over 600 customers. Benton is recognized for its industry-leading customer service operations.
“With the acquisition of Benton, Perdue Partners intends to build on the company’s strong legacy and quality LTL service that is well known throughout the Southeast,” said former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, one of the founders of Perdue Partners. “We will invest energy and infrastructure in Benton to support the logistics needs of current and future customers, and we look forward to being directly involved in the company’s day-to-day operations as we seek to exceed customer expectations.”
Under Perdue Partners leadership, Benton will continue existing service offerings and operations supported by more than 500 team members and 300 trucks. Perdue Partners will lend its extensive managerial and logistics experience to build upon the solid foundation for growth the company has built over three-quarters of a century.
“We are so pleased to find partners with substantial managerial and logistics experience to continue to build upon the respected Benton Express reputation that our family worked so hard to build over 78 years,” said Benton Express President Chip Matthews, who will continue to serve as a strategic advisor during the management transition period. “We are confident that the new leadership will result in a thriving and successful company that serves our great customers and employs hundreds of hard-working associates.”
“Transportation logistics is a key component in the global supply chain and our investment in Benton is a direct result of our belief that the Southeastern U.S. is strategically well positioned to participate in the rising consumerism around the world,” said Perdue Partners co-founder David Perdue and former CEO of Dollar General, Reebok and Pillowtex.
In addition, financial advisory firm EVE Partners, LLC assisted in the transaction. EVE Partners, headquartered in Atlanta with offices in Hong Kong, London and New York, is one of the largest dedicated transportation and logistics practices in the world.
Perdue Partners, LLC (www.perduepartners.com) is an Atlanta-based global trading company that facilitates U.S. commerce through trading, partnerships, consulting services, and strategic acquisitions. Joining David and Sonny Perdue as co-founders of Perdue Partners are Trey Childress, who served as Chief Operating Officer of the state of Georgia for Governor Perdue and Governor Nathan Deal, and Heidi Green, former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Childress will serve as President of Benton.
For more information on Perdue Partners, visit www.perduepartners.com.
Sept. 19, 2012
Governor Perdue served as Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. Prior to his term, he served as a state senator for eleven years and was recognized as a leading authority on numerous issues, including agriculture, transportation, emerging technologies and economic development. He currently serves as a founding partner of Perdue Partners LLC, an Atlanta-based global trading company.
“Governor Perdue’s legacy as a leader and manager will serve as a central addition to the council. His successful work on state budget reforms and economic development initiatives in Georgia offer insights to practical policy solutions that are critical to resolving our nation’s challenges,” said Michele Nellenbach, Director of BPC’s Governors’ Council. “His work as governor demonstrates how states and the federal government can marry the strengths of varying perspectives, capabilities, and resources to work more effectively for Americans.”
Perdue joins a roster of five Governors’ Council members, including: