A Brand New Game

After seven years in business, Hank L. Aaron Sr., CEO of the Hank Aaron Automotive Group (No. 15 on the BE AUTO DEALERS 100 list with $136.7BY: million in sales), is getting out of the car dealership game.

Recently, Aaron sold four of his five dealerships, including BMW and Mini Cooper in Union City, Georgia, and Honda and Hyundai in Griffin, Georgia, to the Sons Automotive Group, a fourth-generation auto dealer in Atlanta. “He is trying to simplify some of his business life,” said Allan Tanenbaum, Aaron’s long-time business adviser, in a previous interview. “While he never views himself as retiring, he wants to enjoy the good graces that God has given him.”

Aaron, known as a hands-on boss, retains the lone dealership, Toyota in McDonough, Georgia. However, sources say he will probably divest of that dealership in the near future. In addition, he recently sold the Jaguar and Land Rover outlets in Augusta.
Even so, Aaron intends to keep, and possibly expand, a network of 14 fast-food franchises, which are housed under 755 Restaurant Corp. They include Church’s, Popeye’s, and Krispy Kreme restaurants, worth some $19 million in sales in 2006. “We are growing; we have no plans to sell,” explains Victor Haydel, the president of 755 Restaurant Corp. and Aaron’s son-in-law.

“We will definitely keep what we have and diversify into other businesses. Right now, we’re looking at other food concepts as well as businesses outside of food,” Haydel says. All of the franchises are based in Georgia, and there are plans underway to break ground on a 15th location.

At press time, Aaron was not available for comment, but when we last spoke to him (see “Power Hitter,” June 2004) he alluded that he wouldn’t be in the auto business forever: “I don’t see myself, at my age, getting too deeply involved in more businesses,” he said.
“He proved [his business prowess] quickly,” says Sid Barron, general sales manager of Braman Porsche Palm Beach in Florida and former vice president and general manager of Hank Aaron Jaguar Land Rover Augusta. “What he did was open doors for more minorities and he put himself on the radar screen with high-end, income-earning African Americans to have them invest in the car business as a viable business opportunity.”