Steve Berrard, who led auto retail giant AutoNation Inc. during its inception, died Monday, according to a news release. He was 66.
Berrard was co-CEO of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company from 1996 to 1999.
Before that, he was CEO and president of the then-popular video rental chain Blockbuster. He had close ties to the late Florida business mogul Wayne Huizenga, who had poured investments into Blockbuster and with whom Berrard started AutoNation.
Before the pair started rolling up dealerships into the company that became the largest dealership group in the country, Berrard worked as president of Huizenga Holdings Inc. — Huizenga's investment vehicle — and took positions with its subsidiaries from 1981 to 1987.
Berrard and Huizenga stepped down from their co-CEO roles in 1999, and AutoNation's search for a replacement focused on finding an established auto industry executive who could impress Wall Street. Huizenga, who remained the company's chairman, found that person in Mercedes-Benz USA chief Mike Jackson, who is still AutoNation's CEO today. Huizenga passed away in 2018.
Berrard continued as an AutoNation director for a time but shifted his focus to running his own private investment firm.
In 2017, Berrard co-founded RumbleOn, an online trader of powersport vehicles.
He briefly was interim CFO of the Irving, Texas, company, then became acting CFO, a role he held until his death. He also was on the company's board of directors.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear friend, Steve Berrard," RumbleOn CEO Marshall Chesrown said in a statement.
Chesrown's ties to Berrard go back to the early days of AutoNation when he sold his own dealerships to the fledgling company and took an executive role running the company's used-vehicle superstores.
"On behalf of the RumbleOn family, its Board of Directors and management team, we extend our deepest sympathies to Steve's wife, his five children, and his family, all of whom he deeply cherished," Chesrown's statement said.
Berrard's death was "unexpected," and officials from RumbleOn planned to travel to Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday to meet with Berrard's wife and children, according to the release.
The company said it planned to release more information at a later date.