The company that once owned The Washington Post is now selling cars.
Graham Holdings, an Arlington, Va., conglomerate, last week bought two dealerships from Sonic Automotive — Lexus of Rockville in Maryland and Honda of Tysons Corner in Virginia — as part of a diversification strategy. Purchase prices were not disclosed.
The deal is the latest example of outside investors moving into auto retail and pairing with an established dealer to run the dealerships. Graham is working with Chris Ourisman, president of Ourisman Automotive Group, which will manage the dealerships. Graham has a 90 percent ownership stake in the stores.
Chris Ourisman could not be reached for comment last week.
"We view this purchase as a unique opportunity to execute our ongoing strategy of investing in businesses that are profitable and are expected to have stable growing years ahead," Timothy O'Shaughnessy, CEO of Graham Holdings, said in a statement.
Graham, which is publicly traded and controlled by the family of former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, sold its flagship newspaper to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2013. Holdings include TV stations, Slate and education company Kaplan Inc., plus manufacturing and healthcare businesses along with SocialCode, a tech firm. A Graham spokeswoman declined further comment.
Outside firms increasingly are interested in automotive retail, several dealership buy-sell experts say. Deals where a proven operator retains a small ownership stake are becoming more commonplace.
Ourisman Automotive of Marlow Heights, Md., has 23 dealerships and 37 franchises around Washington, D.C. The group sold 25,717 new vehicles in 2017, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Other examples of similar operations include Rick Ford's RFJ Auto Partners, formed with New York private equity firm Jordan Co. in 2014 to begin acquiring dealerships. Fremont Private Holdings in 2016 bought Morrie's Automotive Group in Minnesota, and Soros Fund Management provided financing for McLarty Automotive Group. And under Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway purchased Van Tuyl Group in 2015 and renamed it Berkshire Hathaway Automotive.
Sonic, the nation's fifth-largest auto retailer, has been divesting dealerships over the past year, including at least three that required expensive facility updates.