It has taken nearly 30 years, but Thomas Van Weelden is almost at the top of the heap. In 1971, the CEO of Allied Waste Industries began hauling trash in Chicago for his father. He started his own company in 1975, then merged it with Allied Waste, which he built up through a series of mergers.
On Mar. 8 came his boldest deal yet--a $9.1 billion bid for Browning-Ferris Industries, which would make Allied No. 2 to Waste Management. Apollo Advisors and Blackstone Capital, the top Allied shareholders, are partly financing the deal, taking $800 million of convertible preferred.
The deal will boost Allied's sales from $1.8 billion to $6.6 billion--and total debt to about $11 billion. Still, bankers expect asset sales of $900 million and $360 million in savings, and say cash-flow of almost $2.4 billion will be ample. "Where others see garbage, we see enormous cash flow," says Tony Ressler, a founding partner of Apollo.
For Van Weelden, 44, "garbage isn't sexy." But his outfit is cleaning up.