Another chapter in the colorful history of the Rollins family of serial entrepreneurs came to a close with the recent death of Atlanta business titan Randall Rollins at age 88.
As his obituary noted, Randall got his start with his late uncle “Big John” Rollins in managing a growing collection of Delaware-based businesses that grew out of a Sussex County auto dealership.
Rollins helped build the company’s broadcasting business and headed to Atlanta to work with his father. The family’s roots are in the hardscrabble hills of Georgia.
John meanwhile stayed in Delaware and built a national truck rental business while cashing in with Dover Downs during the boom period for gaming and NASCAR.
He made a bold statement in DuPont-dominated Wilmington by building an office tower just outside the city. From the top floor of the 60s-style building, you can see the Philadelphia skyline on a clear day.
The Atlanta side Rollins family was ahead of its time when it came to financial engineering and building publicly traded companies that stayed under family control.
In the 1960s, Randall Rollins pulled off what some say was the first large leveraged buyout in using the broadcasting company to buy Orkin, a major player in the pest control business.
A leveraged buyout involves buying a company and using its assets as collateral.Debt from leveraged buyouts can sink companies, but Rollins used the deal to build the nation’s largest pest control company that operates under Orkin, Western and other brands.
Like his uncle, Randall and his family were not content to stick with one or two businesses. Instead, he moved into oil and gas and service industries, while building and later selling off business as conglomerates fell out of favor with Wall Street.
Randall was more focused on business than John, whose interests included politics, and Jamaica where he built a resort and navigated the volatile political and economic environment on the island.
John and wife Michele became close friends with country music legends Johnny Cash and wife June Carter Cash, who also had a home on the island.
Over the years, most of the Delaware Rollins holdings have been sold off.The remaining public company is Dover Motorsports. Dover Downs Entertainment was sold in 2019.
Randall’s estimated fortune is about $5 billion, with other family members also listed as billionaires.
As is often the case in large, wealthy families, there was a battle over proceeds and control of family trusts. The contentious issues were settled in a Georgia court a couple of years ago.
While his philanthropic activities focused on the Atlanta area, Randall did find time to lend his support and guidance to Beebe Healthcare.
It is entirely possible that the Coastal Delaware hospital system would have been merged or acquired had it not been for the support of the Rollins family over many decades.
Enjoy this beautiful day. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.