Sell-side adviser Kerrigan Advisors represented the Winton and Denson families in the recent sale of Estero Bay Chevrolet to Group 1 Automotive, Kerrigan's 14th Florida franchise transaction advisement since 2019. Kerrigan said Estero Bay Chevrolet is the top-volume Chevrolet dealership in southwest Florida, that state's second fastest-growing region by population growth.
In 2007, Charles Winton and his partner, Pat Denson, were tapped by General Motors to open Estero Bay Chevrolet in Southwest Florida, one of the most attractive markets in the U.S. Estero Bay Chevrolet became one of the highest-volume dealerships in the area, winning numerous awards from GM and the industry. In addition, it ranks sixth in the state and 44th in the nation, or the top 1.5%, by Chevrolet new-unit sales. The dealership has won the Chevrolet Dealer of the Year award every year since 2018, an honor bestowed on a select number of Chevrolet dealers. 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 eirector 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.”
Estero Bay Chevrolet’s focus on customer service includes a commitment to communities surrounding the dealership, including Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers. Over the years, the dealership has been a 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, N.C. market, where Winton will continue to own and operate South Charlotte Chevrolet and Rock Hill Buick GMC dealerships.
Florida dealerships are among the highest-volume and most profitable in the nation. Average revenue per dealership in Florida is the highest in the U.S., 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 metropolitan statistical area; its population is expected to rise 34% to 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 dealerships benefit 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, and Brian Nolen of Nolen PLLC served as legal counsel to the buyer.
Originally posted on Auto Dealer Today