AutoNation Inc. took several steps last week that accelerate the company's evolution, including plans to separate the rental car business from retail dealership operations and turn over day-to-day operations of the company to a former dealer.
The board elected Mike Maroone, 45, president and COO to replace John Costello, who resigned. Maroone had been president of the company's Automotive Retailing Group. A second-generation dealer, he joined the company in 1997 when he sold his South Florida stores to AutoNation. Costello joined the company late last year from Sears, Roebuck and Co.
It means the company's top two officers - Maroone and a CEO to be named - now will be traditional auto executives.
Last month, the company began the shift to traditional automotive management when it said it was searching for an auto executive to assume responsibilities now held by co-CEOs H. Wayne Huizenga and Steven Berrard. Huizenga will retain the board chairmanship and Berrard will stay on the board. The company said it has narrowed the candidates for the CEO job to three but would not disclose their names.
The board also approved a buyback of up to another $500 million in AutoNation shares. The company said it already had repurchased about $500 million in stock through June 30.
Maroone said in an interview last week that the company's business model remains intact.
The company also confirmed last week that it has acquired four Ford dealerships in the Fort Worth, Texas, market. The automaker had tried to consolidate them as an Auto Collection but was prohibited from doing so by Texas franchise law. Auto Collections are groups of Ford Motor Co. dealerships consolidated under company and dealer ownership.
The four dealers are: Larry Hilcher Ford in Arlington, Payton-Wright Ford in Grapevine, Cle-burne Ford in Cleburne and County Line Ford in Burleson.
The deal prompted some AutoNation dealers to say that a broader relationship with Ford Auto Collections could be imminent since AutoNation already manages Ford's consolidation in Rochester, N.Y. But Maroone poured cold water on the idea.
'AutoNation has a good relationship with Ford, and Ford has shown confidence in AutoNation,' Maroone said, adding that he knows of no other deals under way to sell Auto Collection stores to AutoNation.