O. Wayne Rollins

Orville Wayne Rollins, co-founder of Rollins Broadcasting, was a visionary businessman who helped purchase and shape Orkin into one of the most successful consumer services companies in the U.S. Wayne served as Orkin chairman and CEO for 27 years. His son, Gary Rollins, is Orkin’s current chairman of the board.

O. Wayne Rollins

Born in Ringgold, Ga., in 1912 to a farmer father and a schoolteacher mother, Wayne worked hard both inside and outside of the classroom. He worked on the family farm throughout high school and graduated valedictorian of his class in 1930. He hoped to one day become a lawyer, but a hailstorm destroyed the family’s crops and along with them, his dream of attending college.

For 15 years, Wayne worked in Chattanooga, Tenn., at Standard-Coosa-Thatcher, a textile mill, and then later at Hercules Power Company as a TNT supervisor. In 1945, he returned to Ringgold, Ga., where he, his wife and his younger brother began rebuilding a mineral springs resort. Two years later, doctors diagnosed Wayne with two ruptured discs in his back. While on bed rest, he devised a plan to start a radio station that would provide affordable advertising for his younger brother’s automobile dealership in Virginia.

In 1948, Wayne launched Rollins Broadcasting and successfully acquired and repositioned underperforming radio stations to appeal to niche markets like the local military. The company grew to encompass 10 radio stations, four television stations, four cable television systems and an outdoor advertising division. In 1964, the company’s revenues totaled $9 million.

When Wayne learned that the Orkin family was contemplating the future of the company, he saw an opportunity and consulted management experts to evaluate Orkin’s potential for growth. A savvy businessman, Wayne wanted to take the company to new heights. He borrowed $60 million to complete the nation’s first leveraged buyout transaction in 1964 and hired experts who knew how to control pests. The rest is Orkin history.

In 1986, 74-year-old Wayne received the Horatio Alger Award, which is given to outstanding Americans who exemplify the rags-to-riches stories told in the old Horatio Alger books. The award is appropriate for Wayne, who climbed the ranks from his first job as a textile worker to executive leadership of Orkin. After all he accomplished, Wayne still humbly referred to himself as a “Georgia farm boy.” It is a tribute to Wayne that the various Rollins ventures continue to thrive.