Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify statements from the company.
BEND, Ore. — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sale of Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. — one of the nation's largest independent tire dealerships — is on hold.
"We're just paused for now, waiting for things to slow down," said Dale Thompson, the company's chief marketing officer.
"It's just a period where travel has been severely affected, and (potential buyers) want to travel to visit our shops and meet with people. We think it was the mutually appropriate thing to pause right now and restart at a future date."
In December, the company's board of directors and its shareholders — who are all relatives of founder Les Schwab — decided to seek new ownership for the company, enlisting Goldman Sachs Inc. to help find a buyer or buyers.
"This company is strong," Les Schwab CEO Jack Cuniff said late last year. "We believe this is the best way to honor Les' vision for the company and stores and support growth and innovation. Our owners are responsible stewards, and this decision was made after much consideration. It was not made lightly."
Bend-based Les Schwab operates 492 company-owned and licensed stores in 10 West Coast and Rocky Mountain states. The company is considered the No. 6 independent tire retailer in the U.S., according to Tire Business research.
The company's stores average nearly $3.6 million in retail-related sales annually.
The business also ranks among the nation's six largest commercial dealerships and retreaders with sales of nearly $340 million in 2018.
Mr. Thompson said there is no deadline for a possible sale, and, right now, the company is waiting to see what happens with the pandemic.
"It’s important to be clear, Les Schwab has no intention of selling the company's operations in pieces. Our strength is in our brand, and our brand represents the whole of everything we do. Our customers, outstanding employees and decades of success are what make this company valuable. We believe a new owner will want to take advantage of these and drive this Company to even greater success in the future.”
Mr. Thompson said the company has seen an increase in business in June and has been bringing back employees who were furloughed during the pandemic.
"We certainly saw a drop in sales and gradual recovery (in the first half of the year)," Mr. Thompson said. "We've had a little stronger recovery lately. It's been a cycle, and people seem eager to get out and drive again."
In 2019, the 67-year-old dealership garnered a top rating for replacement tire service from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports Inc.
The J.D. Power honor was part of that enterprise's inaugural U.S. Aftermarket Service Index Study, which was based on responses from 12,554 vehicle owners surveyed in August-September 2019.
The Consumer Reports honor was based on survey responses from 30,000-plus members who had purchased tires during a period covering fall 2017 through fall 2018 and who gave Les Schwab top marks for its sales staff, free perks (such as tire mounting, tire balancing or tire rotation), installation quality, waiting area and easy checkout.
The ownership group consists of Mr. Schwab's grandchildren and great-grandchildren, none of whom is involved in the dealership's day-to-day business. Les Schwab, who died in 2007 at age 89, and his wife Dorothy had two children, both of whom also have died. A son, Harlan, was killed in a car accident in 1971; and a daughter, Margie Denton, who had been chair of the company, died in 2005.