John Dobbs Jr. was in his early 30s when the longtime family business Dobbs Management Service exited auto retail after more than 75 years, selling its more than 20 dealerships to Republic Industries Inc., which later became auto retail giant AutoNation.
"The day we sold, I was thinking about getting back in because I knew we had a brand name in the business," said Dobbs, now 56, noting he spent some of his formative years working in the group's dealerships.
The original auto retail business started with Dobbs' grandfather James Dobbs opening a Ford dealership in 1921 in Memphis, Tenn., with his business partner, Horace Hull. The duo quickly built an automotive empire that at one point had over 60 locations from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. And even Elvis Presley reportedly bought a Ford Thunderbird in the early 1960s from a Hull Dobbs dealership.