Al Maroone, the son of Lebanese immigrants who founded a dealership group that became a major building block of megaretailer AutoNation Inc., died last week at his Florida home. He was 98.
Maroone, who grew up in a poor section of Buffalo, N.Y., with six siblings, purchased a small Ford dealership in nearby Middleport in 1955, pooling money borrowed from his father's life savings, his sister's pension and his father-in-law's remortgage. He expanded Maroone Automotive Group in Buffalo and into South Florida.
By 1997, the group operated seven stores generating $700 million in annual revenue, and Maroone was running it with his son, Mike, when Florida businessman Wayne Huizenga came calling. Huizenga, who built Waste Management and Blockbuster Video into behemoths by acquiring mom-and-pop businesses, was applying his strategy to auto retailing.