Larry H. Miller Group of Cos., which owns the country’s ninth-largest dealership group, is searching for a new CEO after announcing longtime company executive Clark Whitworth will step down to be a mission president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Whitworth, 59, and a 31-year veteran of the Utah company, has been CEO for the last four years. Gail Miller, chairman and owner of Larry H. Miller Group, said in a statement Wednesday that the executive committee of the board of directors would convene a search for his replacement and will consider candidates from inside and outside the organization.
Whitworth will remain CEO through the transition or until July 1, when he and his wife, Jennifer, start their three-year mission commitment.
While the intent is to have a successor named before July, there is a plan in place if the search takes longer, company spokeswoman Sara Waldman said. In any case, business will continue as usual for Larry H. Miller Dealerships, the company’s 62-store automotive unit, under the leadership of President Dean Fitzpatrick, she said.
There is no plan to explore a sale.
“The company is structured for multi-generational family ownership,” Waldman wrote in an email. “Gail and the LHM board executive committee are committed to finding the right CEO.”
Larry H. Miller Group established a 12-member board of directors in 2015 as the final step of a corporate restructuring. That restructuring included the departure of CEO Greg Miller, son of company founder Larry Miller, who died in 2009 of complications from Type 2 diabetes at age 64. The company’s board consists of family members, company officials and outside business executives. In addition to Gail Miller and Greg Miller, the other family members leading the company are Steve Miller and Bryan Miller, also Gail Miller’s sons.
Whitworth said in a statement that his faith has always been a priority.
“So it was natural for Jennifer and me to accept this calling,” he said. “The Larry H. Miller Group of Companies is now entering a new phase, and I am confident that we have the right leadership and staff in place to meet its future challenges and embrace new opportunities.”
Gail Miller said in the company’s statement that Whitworth’s accomplishments will have a lasting effect at the company.
“Our family, board and leadership team are committed to perpetuating the values and preserving the strengths that have been foundational to our success for the last four decades,” Miller said. “This includes hiring the most qualified CEO candidate to protect our interests and continue the momentum and growth of the company into the foreseeable future.”
Larry H. Miller Group of Cos. is headquartered in suburban Salt Lake City and employs more than 10,000 people across the U.S., primarily working in automotive, sports, entertainment, finance, insurance and real estate businesses. In addition to the dealerships, the company owns the NBA’s Utah Jazz.
It ranked ninth on Automotive News’ 2018 list of the top 150 dealership groups in the U.S. based on 2017 new-vehicle retail sales of 68,694.