AutoCanada deal signals policy change for Mercedes-Benz

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MONTREAL, QUE. – There was a critical ingredient for AutoCanada to secure factory approval for the purchase of Mercedes-Benz Rive-Sud from the Leclair family: Anthony Taddeo.

“The deal would not have happened had we not had a local, Montreal partner with equity representing the brand and representing Rive-Sud in the marketplace,” explained Mercedes-Benz Canada president Brian Fulton.

“We wanted to make sure we had an equity partner with AutoCanada, in this case it’s Anthony Taddeo, who has an equity stake in the dealership and is our recognized dealer principal. He has skin in the game and will be running the day-to-day operations with AutoCanada as the majority shareholder.”

The mid-April announcement marked a policy change for the automaker, which hadn’t previously allowed public ownership of any of its retail locations.

While Fulton said it wouldn’t be fair to comment on why his predecessors were worried about the public ownership structure, he did point out how drastically the face of automotive retail in Canada has changed in the last 20 years.

While Mercedes-Benz and other automakers continue to work successfully with single point owner operators, there is no disputing how prevalent the multi-franchise ownership model has become. There are dozens and dozens of large dealership groups and with some operating with a national footprint, it is commonplace for these organizations to own several competing franchises.

The Rive-Sud store marks the 57th point for AutoCanada and helps bolster a luxury portfolio that also includes Audi, BMW, Infiniti and Cadillac.

Also likely helping seal the deal was familiarity with AutoCanada chief Steven Landry, whom Fulton has known for many years dating back to Landry’s work at Chrysler.

“Him moving into AutoCanada certainly gave us a level of comfort in him as a person and his capabilities, background and experience. I think that certainly created the opportunity to have the right discussions with Steven,” he added.

The deal will see AutoCanada lease the land, including the 112,643-square foot facility. The massive store boasts a 50-car showroom and 28 service bays. The service department also houses one of only three Mercedes-Benz approved collision centres in Quebec.

The dealership retailed 1,270 new and used vehicles in 2016.

Templeton Marsh facilitated the barrier-breaking deal. The Canadian-based mergers and acquisitions firm run by former dealer Samir Akhavan has been a very active player in the dealership buy/sell market here for several years.

Akhavan, who has built a solid business with discretion as a key pillar, confirmed his company was involved but would not elaborate on the details of the acquisition.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Taddeo, who also owns Volvo Laval, is the latest equity partner to manage a store in conjunction with AutoCanada.

Christopher Burrows, senior vice-president and CFO for AutoCanada, said the group has been moving towards having equity-invested dealers in its stores for the past several years.

Burrows confirmed that 14 AutoCanada stores have this ownership structure in place.