BUSINESS NORTH CAROLINA is thrilled to post our annual list of the state's largest privately held companies, a project turbocharged this year by an expansion to 125 names, the addition of several major enterprises that haven't appeared before, and recognition of auto-retailing giant Hendrick Automotive Group in the pole position.
For the first time in more than 30 years of compiling the list, this year's version isn't entirely voluntary. In other words, some companies are appearing that don't want the recognition even though they rank among the state's largest, based on our research. Most of the information in this list isn't public record, so it took some digging--and many, many phone calls--to compile a comprehensive (and the only) list of the top private companies in the state.
In this digital age, access to company information is greater than ever. Still, it is remarkable how many of these companies operate with little fanfare, even though middle-market businesses are the backbone of the state's economy. For anyone doubting that, where would Cary be without Jim Goodnight and SAS Institute? Winston-Salem without Don Flow and Flow Automotive Cos.? Glen Raven without Allen Gant and Glen Raven Mills?
Each of the 125 companies has a remarkable story to tell. Most have shown great resilience over many years, while others are reporting explosive growth.
Ownership includes families that have operated the companies for generations, such as Kinston-based Harvey Enterprises & Affiliates; private equity-controlled enterprises such as Charlotte's Belk department store chain, which is owned by New York-based Sycamore Partners; and employee-owned businesses such as Tencarva Machinery Co. of Greensboro.
Rob Edwards is a partner and co-founder of Ridgemont Equity Partners, which spun off from Bank of America Corp. in 2010. Ridgemont's staff has more than doubled in size in the last decade. Like many top N.C. finance executives, Edwards began his career at the Bowles Hollowell Conner Et Co. investment bank in Charlotte. The Winston-Salem native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate also worked for Allied Capital Corp. in Washington, D. C., then earned an MBA at Harvard University. After a stint with McKinsey Et Co., Edwards joined Banc of America Capital Investors in 1997.
He discussed Ridgemont's path in the following interview:
Tell us about Ridgemont's history.
Our roots have always been in North Carolina--our practice started in 1993 in Charlotte...