Tonkin Dealer Group to be Sold

Tonkin Dealer Group to be Sold

UPDATED: December 13, 2016 — The Banks Report has learned that the Ron Tonkin Family of Dealerships is selling to the Gee Automotive Companies in Spokane, WA, confirming rumors the last several months that a sale was in process. An announcement is expected sometime in the next few days. Meanwhile, the deal is expected to close sometime in the first quarter.

The Tonkin group, with 21 dealerships selling 26 franchises, is the largest dealer group in the Portland, OR market.

UPDTATE: The Tonkins are selling 16 of its stores, keeping its Ferrari dealership, which they started in 1966, the first Ferrari dealership in the U.S.

Tonkin will also keep its Maserati franchise; its Subaru, Buick, GMC and Chevrolet franchises outside of Portland; and its Acura and Infiniti stores in Reno, Maserati brands, two dealerships in the rural Portland area — one selling Buick, GMC and Chevrolet and another selling Subaru — and two dealerships in Reno, Nev., that sell Acura and Infiniti stores in Reno. 

The Gee Automotive group started in 1983 as a single point Pontiac dealership by George and Theresa Gee. Today the group is run by their son Ryan who serves as CEO, along with president and COO Jeff Jackson. In addition to Gresham Subaru in the Portland market, Gee has stores in northern Idaho and eastern Washington selling Honda, Cadillac, Buick, GMC, Porsche and Kia brands.

The Tonkin brand, which was started in 1961 as a Chevrolet dealership, will continue with co-owner Brad Tonkin staying on with Gee as president of the new platform, according to a news release obtained by TBR.

The acquisition, which is the largest dealership buy-sell transaction of the year, will immediately propel Gee into one of the top 65 to 70 dealer groups in the country, according to data from the Ward’s Megadealer 100 ranking. The Tonkin group sold 10,958 new vehicles and 9,757 used vehicles generating $791.6 million in 2015 according to the Automotive News Top 150 Group list.

(To see a list of the largest transactions of the year, along with analysis of the dealership buy-sell market and a spreadsheet of all of the year’s acquisitions, Click Here.)

The Tonkin name is well known to the automotive retail industry. Founder Ron Tonkin, who died in January 2014, served as the president (now called chairman) of the National Automobile Dealers Association in 1989. He fought hard against the manufacturers  bringing a group of dealers to Washington D.C. dubbed the Rough Riders. Tonkin famously announced from the stage at the NADA convention that was suing several manufacturers. The lawsuit landed NADA in hot water with the Justice Department in 1994 for antitrust practices dating back to Tonkin. NADA settled without admitting guilt, although, it did agree to a 10-year period of monitoring by the Justice Department.

Co-President Ed Tonkin, Ron’s son, also served as NADA chairman in 2010.

Ironically, the Tonkin’s are the second group to sell this year that had a father and son both serve as head of NADA. In May, John McEleney, sold his Iowa-based group to the Billion Automotive Group. He served as NADA chairman in 2009 while his father had the position in 1971.

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