R. Randall Rollins Sr., the longtime chair of one of the world’s largest pest control companies, died Monday at the age of 88 after a short but unspecified illness, Rollins Inc. announced on Tuesday.
Rollins, an Atlanta resident who was worth $5.1 billion at the time of his death, according to Forbes, had served as the company’s chairman since 1991. The firm, which reported $2 billion in revenue last year, was originally started by Rollins’ father and uncle, the children of a Depression-era farmer in Georgia’s northern hill country, in the late 1940s as a broadcasting company after the Delaware-based entrepreneurs purchased a number of local radio stations. Rollins Broadcasting went public in 1961.
After enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard, Randall Rollins officially joined the family business in 1953, and helped expand its broadcasting arm before making an unusual pivot with what would ultimately become known as the first leveraged buyout in American history: Rollins Broadcasting’s $62 million acquisition of Orkin Pest Control in 1964. After the firm moved its headquarters to Atlanta, Rollins began heading up the pest control business with his brother Gary, who’s worth $5.3 billion per Forbes’ calculations. Gary Rollins currently serves as CEO of Rollins Inc.
“The loss of Randall is felt profoundly, not only by our family, his friends and me, but also by generations of Rollins’ employees and colleagues who had the privilege of knowing him during his over 70 years of devotion to the Rollins companies,” Gary Rollins said in a statement. “His strong moral compass and expansive business knowledge allowed him to steer many successful public and private companies in a variety of industries.”
The Rollins company eventually expanded into the oil field service business, and in 1984 it split into three separate public companies: Rollins for pest control, now-defunct Rollins Communications for the media and advertising business, and RPC Energy Services, where Rollins had also served as chairman since the death of his father in 1991. Randall Rollins first appeared on The Forbes 400 list in 2014, ranked No. 225 and worth an estimated $2.7 billion.
The Rollins family was long known in Atlanta social circles for its extravagant, Gatsby-esque parties, many at the family’s 1,800-acre ranch outside the city. But the good times soured starting in 2010 when Gary’s children sued their father and uncle, claiming they were being denied their rightful cash allocations from the family fortune. The dispute—documented in an October 2014 story in Forbes—ended last year, with a confidential settlement reached in a Georgia courtroom, after which Rollins’ four nieces and nephews reportedly walked across the courtroom to their father and uncle and exchanged hugs in tears.
Rollins was preceded in death by his parents and one daughter, and he’s survived by his wife of 67 years, Peggy Hastings Rollins, five children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, in addition to his brother. The firm said current leadership will remain in their roles until a succession plan is announced.