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DEALER, PRIVATELY HELD: Rick Ford, President, RFJ Auto Partners
 
The buy-sell community has been abuzz about the possibility of private equity funds investing in dealerships. But actual deal-making has lagged with the exception of Rick Ford.

Ford is making private equity-assisted deals happen in a big way. Ford, 52, who started his car dealership career in his teens as an "oil change boy," is president of RFJ Auto Partners Inc.

He formed RFJ in Plano, Texas, in February 2014 with the aspiration to push the company into the rankings of the top 25 largest dealership groups in the country.
With the financial backing of Jordan Co., a New York private equity firm, Ford wasted no time acquiring dealerships. In April 2015, he made his biggest acquisition yet: the massive Dave Smith stores in Kellogg, Idaho.
Ford says he wants RFJ to represent every brand in the industry with stores under the Dave Smith name in the Northwest. The company has been focusing on acquiring stores representing mainstream brands this year and will look to luxury-brand stores in 2016.

The Dave Smith deal and the acquisition of two more stores in October bring RFJ up to 26 stores with projected 2016 annual revenue of $1.58 billion and new-car sales of around 27,000. That volume would rank it among the country's largest 20 dealership groups.