At the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in January in San Francisco, Soros representatives told buy-sell advisers and dealers they were ready to acquire U.S. dealerships, and were prepared to invest up to $1 billion.
A representative of the Soros fund did not respond to requests for comment.
McLarty Automotive has 10 rooftops following the Machens acquisition that are expected to sell about 20,000 new and used vehicles this year.
Mark McLarty said future acquisitions will have the backing of the three family offices. A source close to the Soros group said future auto retail investments the fund makes will be done through McLarty.
McLarty, the son of Mack McLarty, a third-generation Arkansas dealer and former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton, founded and operated dealership groups in China, Brazil and Mexico. In early 2014, he returned to the U.S. after living in Brazil and China for more than a decade. He remains a shareholder and partner in Yanjun Auto Group in China. He owns Caltabiano McLarty Group, a 20-dealership group in Brazil, and GDV Imports Mexico, a Jaguar and Land Rover distributor in Mexico.
In August 2014, McLarty bought what was then called Bale Honda in Little Rock. In March, he acquired Frank Fletcher Columbia Honda in Columbia, Mo. The LaFrance family invested in those deals through its Dale Capital Partners investment arm, McLarty said. The family founded USA Drug, which Walgreen Co. acquired in 2012.
"They are very close friends and we've done investments together in the past," said McLarty.
In an email, Jason LaFrance, principal of Dale Capital, wrote that the partnership is a long-term investment based on "our longstanding trust and confidence in the McLarty Automotive Group team and their outstanding track record."
McLarty has had a long relationship with the Hunt family, too. J.B. Hunt and McLarty's Ford-dealer grandfather, Frank McLarty, partnered in the heavy-duty truck segment in the 1920s.
Hunt family matriarch Johnelle Hunt told Automotive News in an email, "Our families ... share a common vision in investing for the long term."
Soros Fund Management was a founding investor in McLarty's China Grand Automotive Services in 2003.
The Soros fund was not involved in management or on the board of directors for China Grand Auto, which has 482 stores in China.
McLarty declined to say how much each family office has invested in McLarty Automotive.
He said his company's growth will be "thoughtful and measured." He is targeting acquisitions in the central U.S. to capture economies of scale. He said automakers have been receptive to the partnership.
"We have that long-term stable capital and car guys who are responsible for managing the business," McLarty said. "That's a good, thoughtful way to approach the industry given how it's taken shape. Stores have become more expensive and capital requirements are heavier."
McLarty said the group will remain privately held. He said the partnership is set up "to be able to grow for the long term without having to bring new partners in and out."