ORLANDO -- Ben Lange tried his family's dealership business but "just didn't like it."
When he was selling vehicles to retail customers, he felt he didn't really know them and they didn't know him. So in 2000, after working in and managing his family's new- and used-car dealerships for about 10 years, he jumped ship, started America's Auto Auction in Dallas and found his niche.
He liked doing business with the same vehicle buyers and sellers week-in and week-out, affording him the opportunity to build relationships and a thriving business.
"I like that feeling better than meeting somebody for the first time," said Lange. "Building the company is my passion. I just love it."
Two partnerships later, Lange, 51, is the CEO of America's Auto Auction, now a 12-auction-site company he owns with Trinity Hunt Partners. The Dallas private-equity firm acquired controlling interest in the auction company from Lange's previous partners in April.
America's Auto Auction is the third-largest auto auction company in the country, with sites in major metropolitan areas in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.
Most of the sellers who do business with the company are franchise dealerships that sell vehicles they take as trade-ins and finance companies liquidating off-lease and repossessed vehicles. Most of the buyers are independent used-car dealers.
Vehicles that are 5 or 6 years old with around 75,000 miles "are common in our auctions," Lange said.