October 15, 2015 — Fremont Private Holdings is acquiring Morrie Wagener’s 11 dealership-group in Minnesota. Partnering with Fremont is Karl Schmidt, who has run Morrie’s Automotive Group since 2009 as its CEO.
Fremont, which is the investment firm established by the family that owns construction company Bechtel Corp., has been rumored for about two years to be looking to add automotive dealerships to its portfolio.
The Morrie’s acquisition is slated to close later this year or early in 2016.
Morrie Wagener started as an automotive mechanic in 1957 working on import vehicles. He bought his first dealership — selling the Citroen brand — in the early 1960’s. Today, the group includes 10 stores in Minnesota one in Wisconsin selling Subaru, Nissan, Cadillac, Ford, Lincoln, Hyundai and Mazda vehicles along with two body shop locations. The group is one of the top 75 in the country generating more than $600 million a year in revenue. Wagener also was active with the American International Automobile Dealers Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association for several years. Reportedly, Wagener’s daughter, Cindy Wagoner Robin, the group’s vice president of operations, will not stay with the group once the acquisition is finalized.
The acquisition likely will be the first of several over the next few years for the Fremont group. It’s also part of a trend that TBR predicted in mid-2014 of private investment money — much of it from family investment firms — would enter the dealership buy-sell market. (TBR mentioned more than a year ago that Bechel’s family investment firm was looking for dealerships. We also wrote in the TBR Weekly newsletter last weekend that a sale of large Midwest group would be announced — we knew of the deal, but waited to publish details until the announcement).