Debra Smith
Debra Smith

One of the country's oldest swimming pool companies, and a consistent presence in the PSN Top 50 Builders, has changed hands.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Pulliam Pool Builders and Pulliam Services have sold to the entity that acquired Dallas-area builder Riverbend Sandler Pools earlier this year.

This marks the second purchase for Concentric Equity Partners, the private equity firm that purchased 46-year-old Riverbend Sandler earlier this year, with the intent to consolidate a number of builders. The holding company is called Riverbend Sandler Pools.

With the Pulliam purchase, it is focusing first in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, with plans to expand outward.

“Pulliam differentiates and has enjoyed strong success through a relentless focus on serving its customers and employees,” said Riverbend Sandler CEO Bruce Mungiguerra. “We’re excited to continue building the Pulliam name and see tremendous opportunity in combining these two great businesses."

Seen by many as a paragon of business in the pool/spa industry, Pulliam has placed in the PSN Top 50 Builders list for 19 straight years. Most recently, it ranked 11th and reported a 2020 total revenue of $27.78 million.

Arguably the oldest swimming pool company, it was founded in 1916, originally as a concrete contractor specializing in waterproof cement cattle dipping vats. The company helped develop the process of pneumatically applying concrete to create a pool shell. In 2009, the founding Pulliam family sold the firm to Debra Smith and Mike Clark, long-time managers in the firm. Last year, Smith assumed full ownership.

“Pulliam has flourished under Debra’s leadership and grown to become one of the largest pool builders in DFW,” said Charles Barnes, Riverbend Sandler's founder and chairman. “Debra has built an impressive company with a trusted and recognized brand name, and we’re honored to carry her legacy forward."

Pulliam Pools will continue to operate under its brand. Smith, who first joined the company in 1992, will remain president of Pulliam in the foreseeable future. The staff also is expected to remain intact.

"With everything going on with the economy... I felt like I needed to be part of a bigger picture with this group," Smith said. "I think that it’s going to change a lot of things for the better, and I wanted the security of knowing that my employees were taken care of, if something were to happen to me. I’ve done this now for 29 years, and I just felt like the opportunity was at the right time for me. They have access to a lot more than I do on my own."

Though Pulliam is geographically close to Riverbend Sandler, the companies showed very little overlap in the territories they serve, said Adam Lucas, vice president of Concentric Equity Partners.

Pulliam subcontracts many of its construction stages, while the original Riverbend Sandler location uses more in-house crews. The company has yet to determine whether those aspects of the respective companies should change for consistency.

In addition to helping her company, Smith expects the consolidation trend to improve the industry over the long run. "I think that, throughout the history of the pool business, there’s not been a lot of consistency in how things are operated and how things progress," she said. "And I think that, with the backing of the private equity groups, that provides us with the ability for a lot of us to get together and [develop] some consistency.

"I think it’s going to make the pool business stronger [for] whoever participates in this, because the resources are just going to multiply."

For its part, Riverbend Sandler expects more growth in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and, in the near future, farther out in the state. "We’re very excited by Texas and, in particular, by Dallas/Fort Worth," Lucas said. "The population trends, the economic growth trends – there’s just so much growth, it’s such a good place to do business."