When Robert Johnson became a dealer almost four years ago, he had two things most other black dealers don't: ample funds and influence.
Now, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and majority partner of RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive in Little Rock, Ark., believes he can use those assets to help potential minority dealers. Johnson says he has the connections to seek outside capital from "high net worth" minority entertainers, professional athletes and businesspeople to invest in dealerships.
Potential investors "may like the car business but either don't have the time or the expertise to run the stores on a day-to-day basis,'' says Johnson who is a minority investor with former basketball superstar Michael Jordan in the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team.
RLJ-McLarty-Landers is the largest black-owned dealership group in the United States, according to Black Enterprise. Johnson's partners are Mack McLarty, a White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, and Steve Landers, a longtime Arkansas dealer. The group placed No. 29 on the Automotive News list of the Top 125 dealership groups in the United States ranked on 2010 new-vehicle retail sales.