Starting as a car parts expert the mid-1960s, late businessman Larry H. Miller parlayed his love for all things automotive and a tiny stake in a suburban Toyota dealership into a thriving business empire and a stint as high-profile owner of the Utah Jazz.
The Larry H. Miller Group of Cos. announced Wednesday it is getting out of its decades-old bread-and-butter business with the sale of its six-state network of car dealerships to Georgia-based Asbury Automotive Group for $3.2 billion.
Asbury will acquire Miller’s 54 new-car dealerships, seven used-car dealerships and 11 collision centers in Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho and Washington. It’s the eighth-largest dealership group in the United States, with significant footprints in Georgia, Texas, Florida and several Midwestern states.
The $3.2 billion sale price includes $740 million for real estate in a deal expected to close later this year.
The sale will “elevate” the LHM Group’s “ability to continue to enrich lives through our philanthropic efforts,” said owner Gail Miller, “as well as reinvest in new ventures.”
Larry H. Miller Group of Cos. CEO Steve Starks said the sale will provide “additional opportunities for the LHM Group to further diversify and grow our portfolio of businesses and investments.”
He did not specify what the company’s plans are.
Larry H. Miller, who died in 2009, bought his first dealership — a Toyota franchise in Murray — in 1979 and built a company that includes sports, entertainment, finance, insurance and health care, in addition to vehicles. He was best known as the former owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz. He bought 50% of the team in 1985 and purchased the other 50% in 1986 to prevent the team from moving to Minnesota.
The Miller family sold the team to Qualtrics co-founder Ryan Smith and his wife in 2020.
“Since our family’s purchase of a single Utah dealership in 1979, we have been honored to cultivate a strong, values-based culture and customer-first business model within the automotive industry for more than four decades,” Gail Miller said. “We feel a great sense of stewardship to our incredible associates and their families, to our loyal customers and partners, and to the communities where we operate.”
Starks was named CEO of LHM Group in summer 2019 and signaled at the time an intent to shift the Sandy-based firm’s portfolio of nearly 80 businesses. October 2020 saw the high-profile sale of the family’s majority interest in the Jazz and related assets, at an estimated sales price of $1.66 billion.
In early January, LHM Group bought Advanced Health Care Corp., a privately held nursing care, home health and hospice provider with centers in Utah and seven other mostly Western states.
Price wasn’t disclosed in that transaction, which represented LHM Group’s first foray into the health care sector. Advanced Health Care runs 22 top-end patient care centers for a mostly elderly clientele, including five on Utah’s Wasatch Front and one in St. George.
In April, LHM Group bought 1,300 undeveloped acres in Daybreak, the master-planned residential community at the west end of South Jordan. Parties also did not share a dollar value on that deal with previous owner Värde Partners, a Minneapolis investment firm that acquired most of Daybreak from Kennecott’s parent company, Rio Tinto, in 2016.
According to Starks, its automotive group employees “will have the opportunity to be part of Asbury, another well-respected and trusted brand, that brings a national footprint with a best-in-class technology platform.”
Asbury is a publicly traded firm headquartered in Duluth, a northeastern suburb of Atlanta, drawing 80% of its sales from imported brands. Its share price rose by 1% to $203 in Wednesday’s trading after the deal was announced.
“Larry H. Miller Dealerships is one of the most respected automotive dealer groups in the United States with a strong culture and stewardship mentality,” said Asbury President and CEO David Hult. “This acquisition is a unique opportunity to rapidly expand Asbury’s presence into these desirable, high-growth Western markets.”
The purchase dovetails with 91 dealerships Asbury owns in Midwestern and Southern states, building on its growing footprint in Colorado by adding LHM Group’s 12 outlets there and 42 others across Western states growing rapidly in population.
It also adds LHM Group’s 11 collision repair centers to Asbury’s portfolio of 25.