Big 10 Tire Stores Inc., the seventh largest independent tire retail chain in the U.S. with 101 stores, is poised for further growth in the Southeast following its purchase recently by a private investment firm.
The deal with Boca Raton, Fla.-based Sun Capital Partners Inc., according to Big 10 President and CEO Don Kennemer, will inject financial resources and retail experience into Big 10's drive for ``further penetration of its existing retail footprint'' in the Southeastern U.S.
Founded in 1954 by the Wilson family of Alabama-represented today by Jim Wilson & Associates Inc., a Montgomery, Ala., commercial real estate venture-Mobile-based Big 10 Tires operates 35 stores in Alabama, 34 in Florida, primarily in the Panhandle and in and around Orlando, and 32 in Georgia, primarily in and around Atlanta.
Sun Capital negotiated to buy the Wilson family's majority shareholding in Big 10 Tire for about two to three months, according to Matthew Garff, a principal with Sun Capital who worked on the deal. The Wilsons had been looking for a buyer for the tire chain since earlier this year.
Sun Capital's standard modus operandi is to grow and improve the profitability of its acquisitions, Mr. Garff said, and then resell them. The average time of ownership, he said, is about five years.
With that in mind, Sun Capital would like Big 10 Tires to grow ``as fast as or faster than it has under the existing management,'' Mr. Garff said. Big 10 has opened on average six stores a year for the past 10 years and states on its Web site its goal is to open five to 10 stores a year throughout the Southeast.
Sun Capital sees growth coming primarily ``in our own backyard,'' Mr. Garff said, noting there is a lot of room in the company's three-state business footprint to grow. ``The plan is to methodically attack markets in the existing areas.''
He wouldn't rule out, though, looking at opportunities-acquisitions, for instance-in other states if that made sense.
The retail dealership provides a range of automotive maintenance and supply services including oil and battery changes, undercar services, alignments and brake repair, and offers a range of tire brands, including Bridgestone, Firestone, Michelin, BFGoodrich, Uniroyal and Kelly. Most stores operate 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The company has about 600 employees, according to its Web site.
Mr. Garff declined to comment on Big 10's annual sales, but he did say the company's business is roughly 50-50 tires and service.
M. Steven Liff, managing director for Sun Capital, said in a prepared statement: ``Big 10...continues to excel through its commitment to quality, service and overall customer satisfaction. We look forward to working with Don Kennemer and Big 10's management team to position the chain for future growth.''
Mr. Kennemer has been with Big 10 Tires for more than 30 years, Mr. Garff said. Mr. Kennemer did not return calls by Tire Business' deadline seeking comment.
Big 10's first outlet opened in May 1954 in Pensacola, Fla., as a franchised dealer for O.K. Rubber Welders, according to the firm's history. The first year's sales of $54,000 were primarily in retreads and used tires.
The owners changed the name to Big 10 Tires in October 1962 and became associated with Dayton Tire & Rubber Co. as primary supplier, with Michelin and Bridgestone as secondary suppliers.
Sun Capital describes itself as a private investment firm specializing in leveraged buyouts and investments in market-leading companies. The firm has invested in and managed more than 135 companies worldwide with combined sales in excess of $30 billion since its inception in 1995.
It has multiple holdings in the retail industry, but this is its first in the automotive aftermarket.
Sun Capital also has offices in Los Angeles, New York, London and Shenzhen, China.
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Big 10 ticker
* R. Don Kennemer, president/CEO
* Based in Mobile, Ala.
* 101 stores
* Carries brands from Bridgestone/Firestone, Michelin
* Web: www.big10tires.com