Cox Automotive President Sandy Schwartz is taking on a new role within the Cox Enterprises organization, overseeing the Cox family’s investments as CEO of the Cox Family Office.
Steve Rowley, executive vice president of the Cox Business commercial unit, will succeed Schwartz as president of the dealership services giant starting Monday. Schwartz, 67, will continue as CEO of the auto unit until the end of the year as he transitions to work with shareholders and family investments, the company said Tuesday.
Rowley, 55, and Schwartz will work together on the leadership transition at Cox Automotive, the company said.
“It’s time for someone else to take over Cox Automotive and take us to the next chapter,” Schwartz told Automotive News on Tuesday.
“We spend a lot of time, a lot of time, on leadership succession. The most important thing to us is putting the right leaders in place,” he added. “And we’ve kind of been talking for the last couple years when’s the right time for me to kind of step aside and Steve Rowley, who’s going to succeed me — he’s going to be phenomenal at this job — he was ready.”
Cox Automotive includes an array of brands that touch multiple aspects of the dealership process, from vehicle shopping to dealership software to the service drive. It employs about 34,000 people globally across brands, including Autotrader, Manheim, VinSolutions and Xtime. The company generates annual revenue of more than $7 billion.
“It’s a huge honor to be asked by [Cox Enterprises CEO] Alex [Taylor] and Sandy to lead this incredible business,” Rowley said in a statement. “Cox Automotive is helping the industry make a sharp right turn toward technology and digitization and I’m ready to listen to our customers and give them innovative solutions for the way forward.”
Cox Automotive plans to realign its business around a strategy developed during the pandemic it's calling "The Way Forward," with an emphasis on digital tools and data insights. Schwartz told Automotive News in June that the plan was designed to help its dealership customers operate coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended business for retailers and dealership technology companies alike.
In June, Cox Automotive eliminated about 275 positions after furloughing more than 12,500 employees in the spring. Many of the furloughed workers were employed at Cox's Manheim wholesale auction unit, which moved to all-digital auctions in March to limit transmission of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
Restoring executive pay
Meanwhile, the company said Tuesday it restored executive pay that had been cut for eight weeks. Schwartz, Taylor and other senior executives temporarily worked without pay, while company leaders at other executive levels took pay cuts of 15 percent or 25 percent.
Also Tuesday, Cox said Keith Holmes, senior vice president of residential sales for Cox Communications, will succeed Rowley at Cox Business.
“Cox is fortunate to have such a strong leadership bench,” Taylor said in a statement. “Both Steve and Keith have great track records with our company and I know will keep us on a path of innovation and growth. I trust them both to treat their employees and customers with great integrity. And I’m thrilled Sandy will still be with us thinking through strategy on the family side of the business.”
At Cox Business, Rowley worked to grow the Cox Communications division that specializes in the wireless, cable and telecommunications industries, the company said, adding in a news release that his experience is "an invaluable asset as Cox Automotive continues to integrate, innovate and transform the way the world buys, sells, owns and uses cars."
Schwartz told Automotive News that Rowley will continue the digital strategies within “The Way Forward” campaign once he takes the helm.
“People are going to love him, not only in Cox but also in the industry. He’s a leader,” Schwartz said. “He cares about people, and I just personally felt he was the right person to step in on where we are today and take us to the next level.”