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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Ridgemont-backed Crete United sets up for growth from Charlotte

Crete United, which owns dozens of commercial HVAC, electrical, plumbing, building automation and other companies, has rebranded and set up a key office in Charlotte.

The company, formerly called Crete Mechanical Group, was acquired by Charlotte’s Ridgemont Equity Partners in 2022. It added eight partner companies last year and now oversees 40 businesses with annual revenue of $680 million, according to a statement.

The Tampa, Florida-based company is on pace to top $1 billion annually within the next few years, a rapid expansion for a business that started in 2020. Crete employs more than 4,000 staffers, with representation in every state. It expects to employ as many as 50 people by the end of the year at its South End-area office, says CEO Mike Cox, who plans to relocate to the area from Texas in the next year.

The company picked Charlotte because it owns four North Carolina companies with combined revenue of more than $200 million, with plans for further expansion, Cox says. Ridgemont didn’t pressure the company’s headquarters decision, he adds.

Mike Cox

Crete’s growth reflects growing demand for commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning services, which makes up about half of revenue. “We’re doing blue collar work. It’s not sexy, but it’s dang sure important and proof that you can still make money in the trades.”

Crete is seeking to set itself apart from an estimated 75 other “build and buy” mechanical services roll-up companies by emphasizing improved energy efficiency and sustainability, Cox says.

“Most of us spend all of our time indoors,” he says. “Our mission is to make those areas healthier.”

Ridgemont hired Cox to run the company in late 2022. He previously led Texas-based Bilfinger North America, which maintains offshore oil and gas projects. Chief Financial Officer Trae Fletcher, who joined Crete last year, is a former vice president of finance at Huntersville-based American Tire Distributors, the largest North American replacement tire distributor.

Ridgemont is North Carolina’s largest private equity group. It was spun off by Bank of America in 2010 with its leadership gaining equity control. It raised $2.35 billion in its last fund in 2022.

Crete was cofounded by Frank Zhang and Jake Sloane, both Harvard MBAs who worked on Wall Street before starting the business. Previously, they co-founded Stamford, Connecticut-based Alliance Animal Health, a veterinary service company, and Tampa-based Legacy Service Partners, which invests in residential HVAC, plumbing and electrical companies.

Crete is named after a small Nebraska town where Sloane and Zhang started their veterinary business.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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