30-year-old tree grower is building a $120 million business

In the summer of 2014, Jonathan Saperstein, then a 27-year-old executive at and minority shareholder in TreeTown USA, a decorative tree grower, was worried. "We were up against the clock because of the cash position," he says. The company's founder--his father, David Saperstein, who had vaulted onto The Forbes 400 after he sold his previous company, Metro Networks, for $900 million--seemed disengaged. David, who was often traveling overseas, wasn't investing in the company, which had around $30 million in revenue; instead he was trying to grow it fast and cheap and then take it public. When Jonathan proposed a long-term strategic plan, David ignored it. When Jonathan offered to buy the company--if his father wouldn't manage it right, he would--David responded with what Jonathan calls "an outrageous number" and the declaration that it was not for sale.

Walking away would have been the easy--and, arguably, the smart--move. What rich kid in his right mind wants to get into a fight with his centimillionaire dad over control of a small company in a zero-glamour business? In this case, though, the rich kid, now an alumnus of Forbes' 30 Under 30, turned out to be every bit the audacious, shrewd and determined entrepreneur his old man had been. And he decided to stand up to his dad.

​In October 2014, Jonathan, with the help of his sisters, Stefanie and Alexis, filed papers to force the company into involuntary bankruptcy. They could do that because TreeTown's parent company, Seven S Capital, controlled by their father, owed $21 million to three trusts in their names. David never saw it coming. The evening of the day the papers were filed, he called Jonathan and started discussing the terms of his surrender. They quickly reached an agreement. Jonathan's holding company acquired TreeTown's assets, and he and his sisters sold their stakes in Seven S to their father. The purchase price, including assumption of debts, was around $50 million. At a companywide meeting called to announce the new ownership, a TreeTown executive brought Kool-Aid and cups and declared, "We're ready to drink the Kool-Aid!"

Read more at TreeTown USA (Amy Feldman)

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