Sale to Tarlton brings together two WBE contractors with long history
of building in St. Louis and beyond
Waterhout Construction President and Chief Executive Officer Renee Bell, an industry trailblazer, announced her plans to lead the carpentry contractor into the next decade through a sale to Tarlton Corp.
Under this next generation of leadership at Waterhout, Bell will carry on as a construction consultant to the company she helped her father, Robert Waterhout, build. Tarlton President and Chief Executive Officer Tracy Hart also will serve as Waterhout president and CEO, with Jeff Bunge as Waterhout vice president and chief operating officer. “Tarlton and Waterhout share a long working relationship, women ownership and an enduring commitment to the St. Louis region,” said Hart. “Each firm can continue to build on its strengths, and we can learn from each other.”
Waterhout will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary and will continue to work from the Waterhout offices at 8110 Dale Ave., St. Louis. Bell explained that in Tarlton she found the right cultural fit for Waterhout, which has revenues of $30 million. The sale was finalized on June 12 and specific terms were not disclosed.
Bell began working for Waterhout in 1972 and became president and chief executive officer in 1985 when she purchased the company from her father, Robert Waterhout, who launched the business in 1962. She was among the first women in St. Louis to lead a contracting company. Today, the full-service carpentry contractor is one of the region’s most successful specialty contractors in the commercial and residential markets.
While leading the firm, Bell was deeply immersed in the construction industry and community. She chaired several committees for the Home Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors of Missouri. From 1992 to 2018, she served as negotiating chairman for the carpentry contract on behalf of the AGC. She served for 28 years as a trustee and 20 years as chairman for the Pension, Health & Welfare and Vacation Trusts for the Carpenters Regional Council representing 20,000-plus members in 33 local chapters across Missouri, Southern Illinois and parts of Kansas. Bell also chaired the Carpenters Apprenticeship Training Trust for the entire region until 2018.
Bell served on the Advisory Board for The Salvation Army Midland Division for eight years and as a member of the Friends of St. Louis Children’s Hospital Board for nine years, two of them as chairman. She has been a member of the Children’s Hospital Development Board since 2017.
In telling her employees and clients about the sale, Bell noted how proud she is of the Waterhout team’s longevity and superior service, and how glad she is to have found a suitable “home” for the business with Tarlton, a like-minded company. “I think it is time for me to smell the roses,” Bell added.
Waterhout and Tarlton have successfully worked together on 90 projects in the last two decades alone. Several of these have been for iconic St. Louis institutions such as The Muny, where in the 1960s Bell was a member of the Muny Opera Dancing Chorus for three seasons (her first job). While a student at Washington University in St. Louis, she was a Washington University cheerleader and a St. Louis Football Cardinals Big Red Line cheerleader in 1967-68. She spent two years in Germany and then returned to St. Louis, where she worked for the Regional Chamber and Growth Association and Pioneer Bank prior to going to work for Waterhout.
Serving as consultants on the Tarlton-Waterhout deal were Benjamin F. Edwards & Co.; Polsinelli; Spencer Fane LLP; and UHY LLP.
Photo Above: Renee Bell
In business since 1946, Tarlton Corp. is a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise that completes projects for wide-ranging clients in the life science, higher education, health care, commercial, power and industrial markets. Tarlton provides unparalleled preconstruction, general contracting and construction management services, with special expertise in concrete construction, restoration and maintenance.
Waterhout Construction is a full-service carpentry contractor with 57 years of experience in residential and commercial construction in St. Louis.