Mike Watts, founder and leader of Sunstate Equipment for 40 years, announced he will retire from the company next month. Ownership partner Sumitomo Corp. will assume full ownership of the company, and it will be led by Watts’ son Chris Watts as CEO.
Watts, executive chairman of Sunstate will continue to serve as an advisor to the board.
Watts started in the rental industry working for Apache Equipment in Phoenix in 1970. After a few years, Watts chose to go into business for himself, acquiring Beldon Rentals in 1977, and then changing the company’s name to Sunstate. Starting with four employees in 1977, Watts and staff grew the business to 61 locations in nine states, becoming the 24th largest rental company in the world, currently ranked No. 7 on the RER 100 listing of the 100 largest rental companies in North America.
Watts, 68, has always been widely respected in the equipment rental industry, viewed as one of the industry’s most dynamic leaders. He was inducted into the American Rental Association Rental Hall of Fame in 2010.
“After 47 years in the rental industry, starting Sunstate and building it over the past 40 years, I feel very comfortable and satisfied with our position in the industry, the caliber of business we have built, and the opportunities for the future,” Watts said. “I am proud of our success and the strong positive culture we have developed, which is creating an environment that allowed people to feel they were valued, provided opportunities for growth, and held everyone accountable to the consistent standards we created. The belief remains the same, that when we do this, people enjoy coming to work each day and make small improvements so we can continue to build a great business. I am especially pleased that my son, Chris Watts, will have the opportunity with his ability to take Sunstate to an even higher level.”