Richard Fleischman, who sold one of Colorado's oldest car dealerships a little more than a year ago, continues today 'totally revitalized' as president of the Denver metro store.
Luby Chevrolet, formed in 1920 and one of Colorado's four oldest dealerships, was sold in 1998 to Houston-based Group 1 Automotive Inc.
'Group 1 was looking for well-run, well-managed dealerships where the dealer might be willing to stay on board and run the business,' says Fleischman. 'I liked that.'
Fleischman had already begun to think about an exit plan for the family dealership when he was initially contacted by Group 1 in the fall of 1997. 'I didn't know what the future held for single-line stores,' he says.
A year later, he accepted the Group 1 purchase offer over offers from two other large dealership groups. Fleischman signed a five-year contract to continue as president of Luby Chevrolet.
'It's stirred my juices again,' he says. 'I looked at it as a new challenge. I get a monthly report from Group 1 that shows where we stand with the other 35 dealerships nationwide, and we're near the top in every sales and service category.'
The decision to sell wasn't easy for Fleischman and his wife, JoAnn, a daughter of the late Papa Joe Luby, from whom they purchased the business in 1992.
The Luby family entered the car business in Denver in 1920, when Sam Luby, one of five brothers, purchased a Ford dealership. Three years later, Sam and brother Louis took on the Hudson-Essex franchise. A third brother, Henry, joined them in 1930, when the family dropped Ford, Hudson and Essex and became Chevrolet dealers.
As a boy, Joe Luby started working for his brothers, doing odd jobs and working in the parts and sales departments. The business was prospering in 1956, when Joe, affectionately known as 'Papa Joe,' bought out his brothers. Two advertising campaigns, 'I Love Luby' and 'Papa Joe Luby,' kept things booming for the dealership into the 1970s.
The firm left downtown Denver and moved into a new dealership structure on South Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood in 1972. After longtime General Manager Joe Tittman resigned in 1974, Luby searched for a successor, and used several men in the key position. In 1977, Fleischman, Luby's son-in-law, joined the company as vice president and general manager.
The Fleischmans purchased the business in 1992. Luby Chevrolet celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1995.
'The great consolidation in the auto business will continue into the 21st century,' Fleischman predicts. 'I don't think many stand-alone dealerships will survive.'
In speaking of his 130 employees, Fleischman says, 'Any success we've had over the years comes in great part from the people working for us, so I had their concerns in mind when we decided to sell.
'Virtually all the employees have stayed on, and there's been no adverse effect on them. In fact, they've benefited, as they can buy stock in Group 1 each quarter with payroll deductions at reduced rates.
'Since Group 1 is a publicly traded business, Luby has had to change some accounting statements to accommodate Group 1's format,' says Fleischman. That is one of the changes that requires additional work on the part of the local dealership.
What about four years from now, when Fleischman's contract with Group 1 expires? 'If I'm ready to leave the auto business, I'd like to get involved in a mentoring program for attorneys.' Fleischman was a practicing attorney when he joined his father-in-law in the car business.
Group 1's dealerships are concentrated in Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida. The company is pursuing acquisitions in the Denver area.