Terry Taylor is an enormously wealthy dealer who owns more U.S. dealerships than all but the biggest publicly-owned groups. Beyond that, remarkably little is known — and that's the way he likes it.
"I am a private person running a private company with the best partners in the auto industry, who would also like to remain private," Taylor wrote in an email to Automotive News, responding to repeated requests for comment for this article.
Sources familiar with the publicity-averse Taylor said he has about 112 minority interest partners, each typically owning a 20 to 25 percent stake in one or several stores. Taylor owns the majority stake in 120 dealerships — some estimates top 150 — in Florida, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Colorado. He does not have stores overseas, sources said.
The exact extent and mix of his holdings beyond Automotive Management Services Inc. in West Palm Beach, Fla., are a mystery even to his business partners.
"Nobody knows for sure because he doesn't treat [AMSI] as a group. So there are no group numbers released," said one of Taylor's partners. This partner, who has been with Taylor for more than five years, owns a minority stake in multiple stores and requested anonymity, fearing retaliation.
AMSI houses Taylor's legal team, human resources, accounting and a TV studio to shoot commercials, sources say.
As a group, the stores sell about 300,000 to 350,000 new and used vehicles a year, they say. Taylor considers publicly owned Sonic Automotive Inc. and privately held Hendrick Automotive Group to be his chief rivals, sources say.
"At one point, he was really ahead of the curve in how he structured his business because he believed in finding really good people and giving them some ownership," said an industry executive who is familiar with Taylor and his operations. He spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"He bought really good stores in good markets, and day-to-day, he was not all over every store."
A first-generation dealer, Taylor built his empire from a single store, sources said. Friend and foe agree that he has brilliant business acumen and is approaching billionaire status, if he hasn't achieved it already.