General counsel, Empire Automotive Group
On his daily trek to Empire Automotive Group's headquarters, Joseph Gentile drives past the car wash where he worked the summer after finishing college. It symbolizes to him the hard work he's put in.
Before he had finished at Ithaca College in New York, another career called: law.
"I stuck through and graduated with a journalism degree, though, and I still think a lot of those skills helped me grow in law school and as a professional today," Gentile said.
August will mark two years since he became the in-house general counsel for rapidly expanding Empire Automotive in Huntington Station, N.Y.
A lawyer's work at a dealership group includes responsibilities that go beyond drafting, negotiating and approving contracts. Gentile's duties also include helping evaluate risk factors in potential dealership buy-sell deals, helping determine whether transaction financials make sense, helping settle customer disputes, handling real estate transactions and more.
Previously, Gentile represented dealership groups, including Empire Automotive, during stints at two New York law firms, Milman Labuda Law Group and Bellavia Blatt.
When Gentile started doing work for Empire Automotive in 2019, the group had seven dealerships. That number has more than doubled and includes an open-point Hyundai, awarded in part because of a proposal from Gentile.
He ended up in auto law like his father, John Gentile, general counsel for John Staluppi's Atlantic Automotive Group.
And just like Dad, he loves watching football and was honored to join Empire Automotive's long-standing fantasy football league.
While his team lost the championship game in fantasy football, Gentile takes pride working on a team that drew more favorable stats: Empire Automotive rose more than 30 spots to No. 67 on Automotive News' most recent list of the top 150 dealerships groups based in the U.S.
The newlywed said he doesn't expect Empire Automotive's acquisition activity to slow anytime soon, but he's looking to grow and learn more.
"Hopefully, I'll be able to add a lot of value beyond what a typical lawyer would add," he said.
— Julie Walker