Sale of Southwest Florida’s top volume Chevrolet dealership marks the 14th Kerrigan-led franchise sale in Florida since 2019, making the firm the most active in the state
April 3, 2023 – Incline Village, NV – Kerrigan Advisors, the premier sell-side advisor and thought partner to auto dealers nationwide, represented the Winton and Denson families in the sale of Estero Bay Chevrolet to Group 1 Automotive (NYSE: GPI). Estero Bay Chevrolet is the top volume Chevrolet dealership in Southwest Florida, Florida’s second fastest growing region by population growth. With the completion of this transaction, Kerrigan Advisors has successfully advised on the sale of 14 Florida franchises since 2019, making the firm the most active auto dealership sell-side advisor in the state.
In 2007, Charles Winton and his partner, Pat Denson, were selected by General Motors to open Estero Bay Chevrolet in Southwest Florida, one of the most attractive markets in the US. As a result of their leadership, Estero Bay Chevrolet became one of the highest volume dealerships in the area, winning numerous awards from GM and the industry. In addition to being the dominant Chevrolet dealership in Southwest Florida, Estero Bay Chevrolet ranks sixth in the state and 44th in the nation (top 1.5%) by Chevrolet new unit sales. The dealership has won the highly coveted Chevrolet Dealer of the Year award every year since 2018, an honor bestowed on a select number of Chevrolet dealers nationwide. In addition, Estero Bay Chevrolet is also a Carfax top-rated dealer, recently won Consumer Satisfaction Awards from DealerRater, and boasts one of the highest customer ratings with Kelley Blue Book, Cars.com and Dealer Surveys.
“Representing Charles Winton and Pat Denson in this transaction was a true honor for me and my team. Estero Bay is not only an incredibly valuable dealership, it also represents Charles and Pat’s commitment to excellence and investment in their community. Estero’s success is a product of their honorable character and exceptional leadership of their employees and service to their customers,” said Erin Kerrigan, Founder and Managing Director of Kerrigan Advisors. “Demand for proven, successful dealerships remains strong nationwide, and Estero Bay Chevrolet is a paragon of success in a premier auto sales region: Florida is the top auto retail market, and one of the most attractive states to do business. Charles and Pat built an incredible legacy of success and community service at Estero Bay Chevrolet, and it was a privilege to advise them on this transaction.”
Estero Bay Chevrolet’s focus on customer service includes a commitment to the communities surrounding the dealership, including Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers. Over the years, the dealership has been a proud donor and supporter of the community, offering scholarships to students in need of financial assistance at Florida Gulf Coast University. Winton, a Foundation Fellow and Chair Emeritus of Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation, helps nurture the growth and education of students through The Charles and Melanie Winton Foundation, while Pat and his wife, Brooke Denson, serve as trustees of SWFL Children’s Charities and leaders of the charity’s annual fundraising event, Southwest Florida Wine and Food Fest, which raises funds to improve pediatric health services in the region.
“At an early age, my wife and I were taught the obligation of giving back,” said Charles Winton, President of Estero Bay Chevrolet. “One of the ways we do that is with our support of Florida Gulf Coast University. We believe that education equals hope and opportunity; our success at Estero Bay Chevrolet has helped to build those opportunities for others,” he said. Pat Denson, Managing Partner of Estero Bay Chevrolet said, “Ever since the first shovel hit dirt on the day we began construction, our focus has been to build and operate a first-class, community-focused operation, including our scholarships to Florida Gulf Coast University, and our commitment to SWFL Children’s Charities.”
Winton began his career as an accountant, spending more than a decade working with dealership financials as a CPA, and learning the retail business from “the top down and bottom up,” ultimately being accepted into the General Motors Minority Dealer Development program. The Charles and Melanie Winton Foundation continues to be active in the greater Fort Myers area along with the greater Charlotte, North Carolina market, where Winton will continue to own and operate South Charlotte Chevrolet and Rock Hill Buick GMC dealerships.
“We were very happy to be represented by Kerrigan Advisors, a firm that clearly shared – and respected – Pat and I’s commitment to performance and professionalism,” said Winton. “Their deep knowledge of the dealership buy/sell market nationwide, their team’s attention to detail, as well as their expertise in shepherding the sales of many high volume, valuable dealerships like Estero Bay Chevrolet, was key to the success of this transaction. We cannot recommend Kerrigan Advisors enough to dealers who are considering a sale and seek a partner to manage that process from beginning to success.”
Florida dealerships are among the highest volume and most profitable in the nation. Average revenue per dealership in Florida is the highest in the US, as the state’s population and economic growth rates have been some of the highest in the nation. Florida is the fifth fastest growing state by population growth and is the fourth best state in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index for 2022. The state’s robust population growth, opportune tax climate and higher disposable incomes have led Florida dealerships to be some of the highest volume and most profitable in the nation. Southwest Florida is at the leading edge of this growth: The Cape Coral MSA, which makes up 55% of the Southwest Florida region, is the country’s 12th fastest growing MSA; its population is expected to rise 34% and reach more than 1.05M people by 2045.
“The Estero Bay Chevrolet transaction follows a volume trend we began to track in our Third Quarter 2022 Blue Sky Report®,” said Ryan Kerrigan, Managing Director of Kerrigan Advisors. “Thanks to economies of scale, high volume dealership benefits from sustainable earnings margins. This means that dealerships like Estero Bay Chevrolet — with a well-run operation and a successful high volume strategy — sell at a price premium. This trend is especially relevant in a business-friendly state like Florida.”
Stephen Dietrich of Holland & Knight served as legal counsel to the seller. Buddy Dearman and Thomas England of FORVIS served as the seller’s accountants. Brian Nolen of Nolen PLLC served as legal counsel to the buyer.
Kerrigan Advisors is the most active sell-side advisor on larger transactions in the auto retail industry, achieving the highest sale price per client of any firm over the last five years. The firm attributes its success to its team’s laser-focus on fulfilling each client’s personal and professional goals. In addition to its sell-side advisory work, the firm offers strategic consulting services to dealers and their families, including growth planning, capital raising and valuation analysis, creating value at every stage of the auto retail lifecycle.
Kerrigan Advisors monitors conditions in the buy/sell market and publishes an in-depth analysis each quarter in The Blue Sky Report®, which includes Kerrigan Advisors’ signature blue sky charts, multiples, and analysis for each franchise in the luxury and non-luxury segments. To download a preview of the report, click here. The firm also releases monthly The Kerrigan Index™ composed of the seven publicly traded auto retail companies with operations focused on the US market. The Kerrigan Auto Retail Index is designed to track dealership valuation trends, while also providing key insights into factors influencing auto retail. To access The Kerrigan Index™, click here. To read the 2022 Kerrigan Dealer Survey, click here. Kerrigan Advisors also is the co-author of NADA’s Guide to Buying and Selling a Dealership.
About Kerrigan Advisors
Kerrigan Advisors is the premier sell-side advisor and thought partner to auto dealers nationwide. The firm advises the industry’s leading dealership groups, enhancing value through the lifecycle of growing, operating and, when the time is right, selling their businesses. Kerrigan Advisors has represented some of auto retail’s largest transactions and advised more of the largest dealership groups in the US than any other buy/sell firm in the industry. Led by a team of veteran industry experts with backgrounds in investment banking, private equity, accounting, finance and real estate, the firm does not take listings, rather they develop a customized approach for each client to achieve their personal and financial goals. In addition to Kerrigan Advisors’ sell-side advisory and capital raising services, the firm also provides a suite of consulting services including growth strategy, market valuation assessments, capital allocation, transactional due diligence, open point proposals, operational improvement and real estate due diligence.
Kerrigan Advisors Media Contact:
Melanie Webber (firstname.lastname@example.org), mWEBB Communications, 949-307-1723
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