Tyco acquires fire co. FireMaster

The firm served 300,000 customers
Tuesday, January 1, 2002

PEMBROKE, Bermuda-Tyco officials confirmed in December that the company had acquired national installation and service giant FireMaster, a Fort Meyers, Fla.-based firm with more than 300,000 customers.

The purchase comes less than a year after the conglomerate bought Simplex Time Recorder and then bundled together Simplex and fire protection services company Grinnell into one entity. That company's headquarters are in Westminster, Mass.

According to Tyco spokeswoman Maryanne Kane, FireMaster will be incorporated under SimplexGrinnell, but will remain a separate entity and will not be rolled into SimplexGrinnell operations. The FireMaster brand name will remain intact, as will the franchise operations the company operated around the country, she said. FireMaster employees, however, will become employees of SimplexGrinnell.

FireMaster operates 32 ServiCenters, seven regional offices and 15 franchises around the country, according to its website. Company officials declined to comment on the acquisition.

Although the company operates under FireMaster, the FireMaster name is actually a brand of the Master Protection Corp., headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., along with its parent, Master Protection Holdings Inc. That company began in 1958 as Master Protection Enterprises and had become a regional provider to California, Nevada and other markets in the region by the 1980's. A group of investors purchased the company in 1988 and embarked on an acquisition spree, setting up service locations, or ServiCenters throughout the country until 1993, when the company instead turned its focus inward to build its infrastructure.

A massive effort to shore up customer profiling and delivery efficiencies was completed in 1998 in order to streamline field operations and get a handle on the company's service offerings, from which the company garners more than half its revenue. The remainder of revenues comes from installations, elective repairs and maintenance and sales of materials.

Beginning in 1996, geographic growth was also spurred by the introduction of area franchises, locally-owned locations in areas not easily serviced by an existing ServiCenter. The company had expected to use the franchise programs to place several more locations in targeted markets around the country. Company officials did not comment on whether Tyco would continue to expand the franchise program.

The company operated through three major service divisions, its Fire and Environmental Services Group, through which the company provides portable and fixed fire extinguishing equipment and maintenance services; the company's Specialty Contracting Group., which designs, distributes and installs fire protection and suppression systems for general and specialized uses and also provides consulting services. The company operated a mining, marine and industrial division that delved into niche markets, such as the specialized fire protection needs of the mining, marine, electric utility and other industries. This division forged a large market share in fire suppression service for the mining sector and a growing presence in the marine industry, according to the company.

Last fall, Tyco also acquired a British fire protection firm called How
Fire, for 12.5 million pounds, or about $18 million. The firm, which was owned by Reading, England-based Interserve, had about 400 employees and had annual revenues of 24.1 million pounds, or about $32 million.