Record-breaking Florida car dealer and philanthropist Rick Case, CEO of Rick Case Automotive Group, died Monday at his home in Fort Lauderdale from complications of cancer. He was 77.
In 1962 at age 19, Case opened his first dealership, a used-car lot named Moxie Motors, in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. In 1966, he opened a Toyota dealership. By age 29, he had amassed a chain of motorcycle stores.
Case was determined to continuously break sales records, according to his family, and he challenged himself by betting on fledgling vehicle brands. He opened some of the first U.S. dealerships for brands such as Toyota, Honda, Acura, Hyundai and Kia. Sales volumes at many of his stores set brand records.
Case and his wife, Rita, moved from Akron to Fort Lauderdale in 1985. They opened one of the country's first Hyundai dealerships. Their Acura dealership was that brand's highest-volume store several years in a row.
Case's empire, now in its 59th year, has grown to include 16 dealerships in Florida, Georgia and Ohio, and more than 1,300 employees. Rick Case Automotive Group is ranked No. 35 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail new-vehicle sales of 22,168 in 2019.
The business is a family affair, with Rita as the company's COO, and two of their children, Ryan and Raquel, with leadership roles. Before he died, Case gave them one last challenge: "Go ahead, beat my records and make me proud."
The family described Rick as full of positive energy and as a family man who enjoyed planning vacations. He and Rita, whose parents owned a Honda car and motorcycle dealership in Santa Rosa, Calif., met in 1977 at a Honda convention. They married in 1980, and Rita joined him in Akron, where they operated the business together.
Case received numerous awards for his work in the auto industry and for his community service. He was named the 2013 Automotive News All-Star for privately held dealer. In 2011, he wrote a book, Our Customers Our Friends, to celebrate five decades as a car dealer.
"Rick had the most amazing mind for problem solving. He set his goals so high, most could not dream that big," Rita Case said in a statement. "His work ethic and passion to succeed was very intense and always had me chasing to keep up. He always treated me as his equal and allowed me to share in his spotlight of success."
Rita Case said her husband told her without a doubt that she could continue the business successfully without him.
"I trust his confidence in me and will make him proud, as will our children," Rita Case said in the statement. "He was a wonderful husband and loving father. I will miss him so much."
Case was born Oct. 22, 1942, in Akron. A celebration of life event will be scheduled in the future.