PSN Top 50 Builder Maryland Pools abruptly closed its doors after 66 years in business. To some it seemed like the company, which had once dominated its market, fell very quickly. But others reported noticing problems beforehand.

A personal tragedy seems to have triggered the company’s closing. On May 17, Maryland Pools President Robert Landon took his own life at the age of 71. It is not believed a note was left behind, said Dick Covert, executive director of Master Pools Guild, to which Maryland Pools belonged.

Landon is said to have suffered health problems since he had a stroke three to four years ago. But after his passing, it became clear the company was in trouble, too. On June 5, less than three weeks after Landon’s death, his partner, Robert Spero, closed Maryland Pools.

About that time, the Maryland Home Improvement Commission opened an investigation into the builder, in response to complaints from consumers saying they were left with unfinished pools. As of press time, the agency had 10 open complaints, according to John Papavasiliou, deputy commissioner of occupational and professional licensing for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, which oversees the MHIC.

The agency suspended Maryland Pools’ license a few days after the builder closed, specifically citing two claims in its suspension letter. Both consumers paid more than $40,000 for projects that were not completed, the agency said. Spero has the right to request a hearing.

The other eight complaints remain under investigation, and more are expected. A Facebook group has formed, consisting of customers looking to finish their pools.
In addition to its home state, Maryland Pools served the Virginias, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and Delaware. It isn’t known if agencies in those states will become involved.

When Maryland Pools closed, it had about seven employees, compared with the approximately 30 who worked for the company 10 years ago, said a former employee who left early this year but remained in touch with his coworkers.

Others said that Spero, the company’s vice president, served in more of a sales capacity and didn’t know the extent of the difficulties. He and Landon became partners in 1983.

Some outside the company had no idea. “Bob Landon and I would have conversations from time to time, and everything seemed to be fine,” said Covert, who last spoke with Landon around April.

The longtime member always attended Master Pools conferences, at which Spero spoke from time to time about marketing.

“It really is heartbreaking to me because Maryland Pools has always been such a great supporter of the Guild,” Covert said.

He portrayed Landon as a polite, but direct, person. “Bob was always very, very nice to me,” he said. “If he had a problem with the Guild or me, he would call and tell me exactly what he thought. Then we would have a conversation of just general things, and it always was very positive.”

Maryland Pools was in the PSN Top 50 Builders list all 14 years since the program began, placing as high as 16th. At its peak in 2007, the company reported building 440 pools and generating approximately $21 million in revenue.

The company also made the recently released list for 2015. Pool & Spa News has chosen to leave Maryland Pools in its spot because the judging was based on information provided by the builder regarding performance in 2014.

Erin Ansley and Scott Younker contributed to the reporting of this story.