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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 12, 2010 12 years ago

Region's largest builder sold

W.G. Mills, a 38-year-old firm with a big presence on the Gulf Coast, was acquired by a Northeast behemoth.

Rhode Island-based Gilbane Inc. has bought W.G. Mills, the largest construction firm with a Gulf Coast headquarters, the Business Review has learned.

Gilbane, a $4 billion company, is expected to close the deal for Mills Dec. 1, says Kristy dosReis, Gilbane's director of marketing communications. She declined to discuss terms of the deal.

Sarasota-based Mills reported $275 million in 2009 revenues. Past projects include the FCCI Insurance Group corporate headquarters in Lakewood Ranch and a $100 million overhaul of Riverview High School in Sarasota.

Mills officials declined to comment or confirm the sale, only to say that they plan to issue a press release on Monday. Gilbane's dosReis, however, confirmed the acquisition, saying executives with both firms got to know each other when they worked on a joint project together. “We have a lot of the same strengths,” says dosReis, “and we believe we can benefit from each other.”

Providence-based Gilbane, with projects nationwide, has grown mostly through projects, not acquisitions, says dosReis. The company recently bought a small firm in California, but before that it had grown only organically for several years.

Gilbane was founded in 1873 by brothers Thomas and William Gilbane, according to the firm's Web site. The company has since stayed in family hands through five generations.

Mills, meanwhile, was founded by Sarasota businessman Walter Mills in 1972. The company is currently run by Lem Sharpe, the president who joined the firm in 1973.

Other large Gulf Coast-based commercial builders have been acquired in Florida's construction bust. For example, Oklahoma-based Manhattan Construction Group acquired Naples-based Kraft Construction in 2008.

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