LASKY All-American. Lasky’s entrée into construction was a Gradall.

Bill Lasky’s career has just swung full circle. When he was 19 years old and working as a quality control engineer on New York state highway projects, he often found himself behind the controls of a Gradall excavator. Lasky, who is now chairman, president and CEO of JLG Industries Inc., just sold the firm’s Gradall line for $39.4 million in cash.

The deal, announced Feb. 3, hit home for Lasky in more ways than one. “The Gradall excavator is the first piece of construction equipment that I ever operated in my life,” he says.

The Gradall experience convinced Lasky that he would make a good Army helicopter pilot. He earned a degree in business administration, completed a tour of duty as a pilot in Korea and went on to work for Dana Corp. In 1999, he landed the top job at JLG—the same year it acquired the Gradall brand. “I have a lot of personal affection for that piece of equipment,” he says.

Nostalgia would not cloud Lasky’s judgement. McConnellsburg, Pa.-based JLG was more interested in acquiring the Gradall telehandler to match its aerial work platform line. “Dirt was not our speciality,” admits Lasky, 58. His intent to sell the excavator side was widely known. “I talked about it at every investor conference call for the past five years,” he says. A recession delayed the move.

The sale puts Gradall in the hands of Alamo Group Inc., Seguin, Texas. It will continue to build the machines in New Philadelphia, Ohio, Gradall’s home since 1950. The world’s first hydraulic excavator, Gradall still is an all-American machine.

Under the terms of the agreement, JLG has three years to change the name of its powder-blue telehandlers. Lasky says the color will stay.

JLG will likely use the windfall to expand operations, which are running strong due to high demand for rented machines. In addition to the sale, a deal struck last year to build telehandlers for Caterpillar Inc. and a sprouting network of service centers has JLG’s focus on a tighter, more vertical path.