Alpine Investors, a private equity firm with $16 billion in assets and three offices in San Francisco, New York, and Salt Lake City, recently launched Cobalt Service Partners, a new platform focused on buying and building access solutions businesses. In conjunction with the launch, Cobalt announced its first acquisition of Piedmont Door Solutions, a provider of commercial doors and entrance solutions with locations across the Southeast, Southwest, and Mid-Atlantic.
Founded in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2001 by Pat Keane, Piedmont will continue to be led by current CEO Chris Mitchell, while Tarrell Graham has been promoted to COO, and Keith Mehltretter and Jim Adams have been promoted to Regional Vice Presidents.
“I couldn’t be more excited for Piedmont’s future,” said Mitchell. “We’ve achieved so much as a team, and this partnership with Cobalt enables us to go faster and bigger than we ever imagined would be possible. It also secures Piedmont’s future for generations to come. On behalf of the entire Piedmont team, we’re thrilled for what lies ahead.”
Keane added, “I feel tremendous pride in what we’ve accomplished over the past 22 years and gratitude that Piedmont’s legacy will live on under Cobalt. I couldn’t be more excited about the possibility of Piedmont’s model and mission expanding nationwide."
Moving forward, Cobalt is looking to acquire additional security companies in the areas of overhead doors and docks; commercial doors; security gates; access control systems; and video surveillance systems.
In the following interview, Locksmith Ledger speaks with Cobalt Co-CEOs Tyler Hoffman and Anthony Gonzalez about the significance of this first acquisition, their plans for future M&A activity, Cobalt’s growth, and overall vision for the platform. Hoffman, who has been tasked with overseeing M&A, was previously CEO of Radicle Health, an Alpine software business that completed eight acquisitions during his tenure. Gonzalez served in Congress from 2019 to 2023, representing his hometown district of Cleveland, Ohio. He previously worked as COO at InformedK12, an EdTech startup, and led sales at Beneco, an Alpine portfolio company. He was also a first round-draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.
Locksmith Ledger: What was the impetus for Cobalt, this new platform focused on buying and building exceptional access control businesses? Please discuss some of the driving factors for this launch.
Hoffman: We looked long and hard for big, fragmented markets in which supply of labor was not keeping pace with demand for services. It’s in these markets that many owners have a particularly hard time finding a compelling long-term home for their business. So, it’s also in these markets that our commitment to stewardship, growth, and world-class people development tend to resonate the strongest. Not only does the access solutions market strongly align with these criteria, but it also possesses a clear and compelling mission orientation that many markets lack. The Cobalt team is incredibly energized by the idea of supporting businesses whose mission is to help people move between and within buildings freely, while also keeping them safe.
LL: Please talk about the significance of the acquisition of Piedmont in conjunction with the launch of this platform. Why did you choose Piedmont and do you have some history with the company?
Gonzalez: We couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Piedmont with whom to start this journey. First off, Piedmont is a phenomenal business. Customers love Piedmont for a reason, and we intend to take that service orientation across the country to every business we bring into Cobalt. Second, Piedmont is poised for growth. Many businesses that have grown historically have not made the necessary investments to sustain that growth into the future. Piedmont has. Third, and most importantly, the Piedmont team is exceptional. We are thrilled to work with such a mission and values-aligned team, especially as our first partner. And regarding our history with Piedmont, we first met Chris, Pat, and the Piedmont team earlier this summer.
LL: What are some of your strategies and goals for growth on the M&A side? Are you looking to be aggressive in 2024 with more acquisitions and if so, is there a goal or number you would like to reach in that area?
Hoffman: We intend to move quickly on the M&A side – in 2024 and thereafter. As far as goals, it’s less about a specific number of businesses and more about ensuring that Cobalt lives up to its promise, which is to be the absolute best long-term home for access solutions businesses. We know that most founders in this market care deeply about their people and their customers, and we’re confident that our message will resonate with these folks. So, while we still have a lot of work to do, we’re confident that we’ll be able to build significant scale quickly.
LL: Building on that last question, are there certain types of security companies or certain geographical areas within the U.S. or outside the U.S. that you will focus on?
Hoffman: As far as geography goes, we’re looking for businesses across the U.S. As far as the types of businesses we’re looking for, our focus is on businesses that install and maintain access-related solutions and technology for non-residential facilities. The most prevalent categories are overhead doors and docks, commercial doors (like Piedmont), security gates, access control, and video surveillance. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the categories that we are focused on.
LL: Will Piedmont and others you acquire continue with their brand name and businesses and leadership/employees as you look to build organically as well?
Gonzalez: Yes, absolutely. The Piedmont brand is here to stay, as are the brands of other market-leading businesses we bring into Cobalt. In some cases, it may make sense to consolidate branding at the local level, but even in those cases it won’t be the Cobalt brand that subsumes a local brand. The way we think about it is that Cobalt’s customers are its businesses, like Piedmont. Cobalt’s businesses’ customers are schools, hospitals, municipalities, etc. So, Cobalt will be supporting its businesses from behind the scenes and customers of those businesses will continue to identify with the brands they know and love.
As far as leadership and employees go, we buy businesses to grow them, not to cut them. In many cases, founders/owners will be interested in partnering with Cobalt because we can recruit exceptional leadership for their business, which enables the founders/owners to step aside from the day-to-day operations. In other cases (like Piedmont), we will support the existing leadership team, even if we would look to supplement that team with someone we’ve recruited centrally at the Cobalt level. Either way, our strategy isn’t to rip out what made the business excellent in the first place – its people, culture, and reputation in the market. Employees of Cobalt’s businesses should expect to see ongoing and accelerated investments in each of these places.
LL: What are your overall goals for organic growth in 2024 and beyond?
Gonzalez: We’re looking to partner with businesses with strong growth potential. Our job is then to help our businesses realize that growth potential via investments in technology, recruiting, and operational best practices, among many others. And while we intend to grow our businesses significantly, we will do so sustainably and thoughtfully. The growth cannot and will not come at the cost of exceptional service to customers. It will be a direct result of doubling down on that commitment to exceptional service. We don’t share organic or inorganic growth goals externally, but we’re looking to make an impact in the market quickly.
LL: Has Alpine created platforms like this in other areas/industries? If so, please give some examples and any numbers on success and growth of those platforms would be great.
Gonzalez: Yes, Alpine has a proven track record of building successful platforms across multiple other industries, and particularly in field services industries. These platforms include, but are not limited to, Apex Service Partners, Orion Services Group, Evergreen Services Group, Vertex Service Partners, and Trilon.
LL: What are your short- and long-term goals for Cobalt? Please provide any financial or growth numbers you would like to achieve if possible.
Gonzalez: We can’t share financial or growth targets externally, but our primary goal is to live up to our mission, which is to secure legacies and unlock possibilities for businesses, teams, and founders’ futures. If our founders and their teams feel proud to call Cobalt their partner 5-10 years from now, we’ll know that we’ve succeeded.