Horizon Services, whose 500 home plumbers, furnace and air conditioning mechanics and other staff cruise the company's orange utility trucks in neighborhoods along I-95 from Connecticut to Maryland, has been purchased by Sun Capital, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based buyout firm.

Sun, which also owns Philadelphia-based PaperWorks, Boston Market, Johnny Rockets, and dozens more U.S. companies -- it targets firms with at least $50 million in yearly sales -- says it plans to expand Horizon by buying up more small service firms. 

Horizon owners Mark Aitken and Dave Geiger have been looking for a buyer since 2015, they said in a statement this morning. The firm is based in Wilmington, Del., with branches in Norristown, Mount Laurel, and other towns.

Sun declined to say how much it paid for Horizon. "If the sale price were greater than half (Horizon's) revenue, I would be surprised," Bob Whalen, owner of H.B. McClure, a Harrisburg home and commercial HVAC contractor. McClure, like Horizon, has around 500 employees; its yearly sales to residential and commercial customers total around $80 million.

"My guess is the (price) is pretty restrained," said Andrew Greenberg, managing director at Philadelphia-based Fairmount Partners, which has handled service-company deals for McClure and others. "There’s not a lot you can do to improve the performance of a Horizon Services, except buy other, smaller operations and eliminate costs as you tuck them in." Also, Sun "is known for buying troubled, under-performing or out of favor businesses" at bargain prices.

But maybe, "given Sun’s knowledge of the equipment side of the business, they can do a better job of negotiating price and terms with the suppliers," scheduling service routes, and serving growing rental-housing markets, suggested Thomas Bonney, founder and managing partner at CMF Associates LLC, an 80-person, Philadelphia-based national consultant that advises buyout firms.

Bonney said a buyer could "easily" pay 50% of yearly revenues for a service firm with "sticky" repeat customers -- or even 70%, though he noted Sun isn't known for "paying up" high prices.

Geiger and Aitken, who grew Horizon (founded 1987) by buying smaller firms from Connecticut to Maryland,  "believe our company is primed for growth with the right partner and resources," he said in a statement. The firm calls itself "the region's largest and most-referred home-services company."

Sun Capital owns at least a couple of firms that could sell services to Horizon, including Spectralink (mobile communications) and Bundy Refrigeration (cooling fluid systems).

Sun plans "to help grow Horizon Services,"and "maximize the business's potential," Sun co-CEO Marc Leder said in a statement.   Sun will "provide the resources needed for growth, organically and through acquisitions," said Sun partner M. Steven Liff, and take steps to improve "systems and business processes." 

The Philadelphia law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP advised Sun. Horizon was advised by STS Capital Partners.