Group 1 to buy 30 Prime Automotive stores for $880 million

Prime ranks No. 18 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 31,529 new vehicles in 2020. It generated more than $2.6 billion in revenue last year.

In the past few years, Prime has sold more than a dozen stores that weren’t in its core Northeast market. This year, Prime sold five dealerships, including two Massachusetts Toyota stores, which Group 1 purchased in March.

Prime’s majority owner, GPB Capital Holdings, has been ensnarled in numerous lawsuits and this year was accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of operating a Ponzi-like scheme. A federal monitor was appointed to oversee GPB Capital and dealership operations as part of the SEC case, which was filed in February.

Group 1 of Houston ranks No. 4 on Automotive News‘ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 140,221 new vehicles in 2020 and generating revenue of more than $10 billion.

Group 1 has 188 dealerships in the U.S., United Kingdom and Brazil, plus 48 collision centers. It has eight locations in Massachusetts, four in New Hampshire and five in New Jersey, according to its website. Maine and New York would be new states for the group.

A large proportion of Group 1’s dealerships are in Texas.

Once the Prime stores are acquired, Group 1 said it will have 147 U.S. dealerships, including 46 Northeast locations.

The public auto retailers, family offices and some large private dealers were thought to be interested in buying Prime, which has stores in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

Mark Johnson, president of buy-sell firm MD Johnson Inc. in Enumclaw, Wash., previously told Automotive News that the Prime deal could be a “billion-dollar deal,” inclusive of real estate.

Group 1 said it has already acquired dealerships representing $420 million in annualized revenues this year and with the Prime deal will have acquired dealerships representing at least $2.25 billion in revenue.

Group 1 CEO Earl Hesterberg in July told analysts that Group 1 expected to “announce some U.S. acquisitions in the months ahead.” The public retailer in July said it bought seven dealerships in the United Kingdom.

The company has said this year that it has financial capability to add $1 billion or more in annual revenue through acquisitions.

“We continue to prioritize external growth in our capital allocation process, and we’re optimistic that we will have beneficial opportunities as the year progresses,” Hesterberg told analysts in July.

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