A process of acquiring, or “rolling up,” smaller companies within an industry in order to create economies of scale and form a larger company. The roll-up may be done by investors who are seeking investment opportunities or by a larger company in the industry. Companies that are purchased often are small, independently-owned businesses whose owners believe that they would be better able to compete if they were larger and could have a national presence. Often roll-ups happen in service industries. They were a popular consolidation tool in the late 1990s in once-stagnant industries, such as waste management, that suddenly had strong financial growth. Other industries where this technique was popular included temporary services agencies, computer services, and advertising.
In the late 1990s, as the initial public offering market boomed, roll-up IPOs became popular. This technique was used by a holding company simultaneously acquiring five to ten privately held companies in an industry, which immediately created a major player. The owners of the companies received cash and shares in the holding company. In order for the new company to get capital, it launched an IPO, which was done at the same time as the acquisitions. The cash was then dispersed to the owners, with the company’s coffers funded as well. Stock from the IPO also was given to the owners as part of their payment.