Lawn care and property maintenance became big business for the Brickman Group, of Gaithersburg. (Via istock)

A year before its 75th anniversary, a Gaithersburg landscaping company that grew into one of the nation’s largest property management firms has been acquired by a global investment company for $1.6 billion.

The Brickman Group was founded in Illinois in 1939 by Theodore Brickman, then a horticulturist for the Chicago Park District who worked out of the back of his pickup truck with a set of lawn tools. Now headquartered in Gaithersburg, it employs some 10,000 people nationwide landscaping, maintaining lawns and removing snow.

On Monday, the Brickman Group and its main investor, Los Angeles private-equity firm Leonard Green & Partners, announced that they would sell the business to KKR, the $90 billion global investment company.

“We are very pleased to partner with KKR, a leading investment firm with extensive experience in service businesses and an outstanding track record,” Brickman chief executive Andrew Kerin said in a news release. “With our partner, we are well positioned to accelerate our growth, further enhance the quality of services we provide to our clients and extend our industry leadership.”

Although its company’s expansion has been fueled by investments from private-equity firms such as CIVC Partners of Chicago and Leonard Green, the Brickman family has continued to manage the company.

Theodore Brickman’s son Dick grew the company through the 1960s and 1970s before handing it over to his son, Scott, who was chief executive until the spring of last year, when Kerin was named to the post and he became chairman. Scott Brickman and his wife, Patrice, who drove donations and supplies to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, were named “Philanthropists of the Year” in 2012 by Bethesda Magazine.

LaNella Hooper-Williams, a spokeswoman for Brickman, said in an interview that the Brickman family and the company’s core leadership would remain in place after the sale. She said the sale gave the Brickman Group an opportunity to continue to grow.

“Leonard Green and Scott decided this was a good time in terms of growing the business for them. So they collectively began to look around at their options,” Hooper-Williams said.

Simon Brown, a member of KKR, said in the news release announcing the sale that Brickman was “a leader in its industry, with an outstanding management team, a distinguished culture, talented and committed employees, and a track record of delivering high-quality services to its clients.

“We are excited to invest in the company and look forward to working closely with the Brickman leadership team to continue to build on the Company’s market-leading position and grow the business over time,” he said in the release.

The sale is expected to close at the end of the year.