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Largest Private Companies Report 25% Jump in Sales

Economy: $100B for 35 firms; Allied ranks No. 1

Orange County’s biggest private companies are getting bigger.

The 35 companies on the Business Journal’s annual list reported a 25% jump in revenue to $100 billion last year. That compares to a 1% gain in revenue in 2020 and a 3.1% increase in 2019.

The boom was widespread—19 increased their sales, including 14 by more than double digits.

Santa Ana-based Allied Universal’s accounted for half of the $20 billion sales gain on the list after more than doubling its annual sales to $19 billion following its acquisition last year of London-based firm G4S for $5.1 billion, and securing the top spot on the list.

Global Chairman and Chief Executive Steve Jones last year told the Business Journal the company plans to continue to expand to $25 billion in annual sales by 2026. The company has made several big acquisitions in recent months, including Israeli-based Attenti Group, one of the world’s leading electronic monitoring companies, which has more than $150 million in sales in 35 countries.

“This acquisition gives Allied Universal Electronic Monitoring Services a global footprint and an established platform for continued growth in North America, which is the world’s largest opportunity for electronic monitoring,” Jones said at the time.

Falling to No. 2 was Fountain Valley’s Kingston Technology Corp., which was founded in 1987 by David Sun and John Tu, with $15 billion in sales, up 8.7%. The maker of memory chips received a boost during the pandemic when gamers, work-from-home employees and other users of its products were cooped up indoors.

It also continued introducing new products such as a “pocket–sized” portable external hard drive and a new line of memory chips for gamers called “Fury.”

 

Alliant Boom

The Business Journal’s annual list includes those with at least $500 million in annual sales.

Irvine once again was the most popular with 13 calling the city its headquarters, followed by Newport Beach with five and Orange with three.

The 35 firms reported companywide employment rose about 1.2% to 993,278.

Allied made up the biggest portion of that company employee count; the world’s largest private security firm counts more than 800,000 employees, including 5,980 in Orange County, up 22% from a year ago.

The list indicates private companies are back in hiring mode in Orange County, where their employments increased 5.4% to 34,107. In 2020, the local employee number fell 1.3%.

The biggest local employee gainer by percentage was No. 9 Alliant Insurance Services Inc., which reported local employment jumped 63% to 507. A year ago, the firm made its largest acquisition ever by purchasing Huntington Beach-based Confie, the largest personal lines insurance distributor in the U.S.

“They have over a million customers that they do business with,” Alliant Chairman and CEO Tom Corbett told the Business Journal last September. “We think we can expand their product offerings.”

 

Notables

Pacific Life Insurance Co. claimed the No. 3 position as revenue jumped 18% to $13.7 billion.

The Newport Beach-based company said the increase was due to investment returns, more retirement options and its life insurance unit.

“2021 was a dynamic and eventful year for Pacific Life,” new Chief Executive Darryl Button said in the company’s annual report.

Button took over from Jim Morris, who retired April 1 after almost 40 years with the company.

• No. 18 Aviation Capital Group, one of the world’s biggest lessors of commercial aircraft, looks ready to take off again as its revenue increased 3% to $1 billion after falling 15% in 2020 as the travel industry was heavily hit. Aviation Capital was previously part of Pacific Life, which sold the unit for an estimated $3 billion to minority stockholder Tokyo Century Corp.

• The largest gainer on the list was Passco Cos., an Irvine-based developer and real estate apartment investor with nearly 14,500 units in its portfolio. Its revenue more than doubled to $1.8, billion, as it climbed from No. 24 to No. 12.

“Last year was our busiest ever with $1.7 billion in transactional volume,” Vice President of Corporate Marketing Stacy Stemen told the Business Journal in a recent interview.

• Another fast gainer was Orange-based SA Recycling, where revenue also doubled to $3.1 billion.

The company has been on an acquisition spree in the past decade, making it one of the biggest scrap metal companies in the U.S., with more than 125 recycling facilities located throughout California, Texas and the southeastern U.S.

• The pandemic caused Pacific Dental Services founder and CEO Stephen Thorne to miss his 2020 goal of $2 billion in annual sales that year and to lay off 8,000 of his then 13,000 employees.

“At certain points in your career, you wonder if you’re going to make it,” said Thorne in May when he won a Business Journal’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award.

Not to worry—Thorne made that goal in 2021 as sales rebounded 28% to $2 billion.

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.
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