When representatives of Wall Street financier George Soros told dealers in January at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention that the billionaire's family fund wanted to buy dealerships, it prompted a flurry of speculation that private-equity money and wealthy families' funds would open their fat wallets and inflate buy-sell prices.
But so far, deals aren't getting done.
"What we're seeing is a cooling off of the M&A market in terms of private equity and family funds," says Mark Johnson, president of buy-sell advisory firm MD Johnson Inc. in Seattle.
Outside money buying all or part of dealerships is nothing new. For example, Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, through his Cascade family office, owns 14 percent of AutoNation Inc.