Landers: Just bury me on the car lot
Steve Landers is building a dealership group with his son.
When Steve Landers and his father sold their Arkansas dealerships for $40 million to UnitedAuto Group in 1995, he figured he was too young to retire.
So the 42-year-old went to work for UAG and then for Roger Penske after Penske bought the fledgling consolidator. "I was never able to go to college, but I got my M.B.A. from Roger Penske," says Landers, now 59.
He put it to good use. After eight years working for a public company, Landers wanted to return to his entrepreneurial roots. Penske agreed to sell him a Toyota store in Little Rock, Ark., and Landers left to run it in 2003.
Today, that Little Rock store is the foundation of the dealership group Landers is building with son Scott, 28. The pair also has a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep store in Little Rock and just bought another Toyota store in suburban St. Louis. And they're shopping for more dealerships.
Landers aims to combine the best of what he learned in public retailing -- inventory discipline, for example -- with the specialties he developed as an entrepreneur.
Landers will have more time for the family business since stepping down Jan. 1 as president of RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive Holdings of Little Rock. That dealership group, which he formed in 2005 with former competitor Mack McLarty, grew to 25 stores and ranks 19th on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups.
Even though he's "not one for down time," Landers, who has had a dozen knee surgeries, says he's trying to slow down by selling most of his interest in that partnership.
But Landers, who started selling cars as a newly married 17-year-old needing to make his $75 house payment, figures he'll never really leave the dealership business.
Said Landers, in his slow Southern drawl: "When I die, they'll just probably bury me on one of these car lots."
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