Marshall Chesrown, 41, will step down as chief of Republic Indus-tries Inc.'s AutoNation used-car superstore chain at the end of January.
Chesrown's resignation coincides with Republic's move to decentralize AutoNation's operations and give the district offices more responsibility. Republic also is closing its reconditioning centers; reconditioning will be handled locally at new-car dealerships.
Chesrown, a senior vice president of Republic's Automotive Retail Group, will not be replaced. Instead, the regional vice presidents in Republic's 10 district offices, who are all former dealers, will oversee the used-car superstore operations in addition to the new-car stores.
The resignation prompted some speculation that the former high-volume Denver dealer disagreed with Republic's controversial no-haggle pricing policy. Chesrown, who did not return several phone calls, became successful selling cars through conventional price negotiation.
'He wasn't mad at us, and we weren't mad at him,' said Mike Maroone, president of Republic's Automotive Retail Group and Chesrown's supervisor. 'He is not being pushed out because of fourth-quarter results (which failed to meet analysts' expectations). At the time he approached me about resigning, AutoNation had achieved profitability for the first time (during the third quarter).'
Republic dealers who know Chesrown said he initially disagreed with the no-haggle pricing strategy but warmed up to the concept since selling his four dealerships and one collision repair center to Republic in March 1997. Other dealers speculate he might have preferred the hands-on challenge of running dealerships to the corporate life.
'I know I would go nuts if I were away from the dealership,' says Richard Higginbotham, operator of Republic's Tallahassee Ford in Tallahassee, Fla.
At Republic's mid-December dealer meeting, Chesrown told dealers and general managers that he never intended to take the helm of AutoNation for more than a year, and he actually stayed a few months longer than planned, according to dealers who attended the meeting.
He agreed in September 1997 to become senior vice president of megastore retail operations in order to help get the AutoNation stores in the black. Maroone said Chesrown indicated he wished to live in Denver so that he could be near his family.
Although Republic dealers say they will miss Chesrown, they think the superstores are best handled out of the district offices.
Maroone said Chesrown will continue to work with Republic as a paid consultant on special projects.