Three prominent car dealers died during the first week of 2009, representing stores in Dallas, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, Jack Safro, who began the Jack Safro Dealer Group in 1962, suffered a heart attack and died at his home.
The Jack Safro Dealer Group, which employs more than 350 people, includes five dealerships in the Milwaukee Metro area.
Mr. Safro began his dealership organization with a used-car store in Pewaukee, WI. The dealer group includes Jack Safro Toyota; Jack Safro Ford Lincoln Mercury; Lexus of Brookfield; Lexus North Shore; and Infiniti North Shore.
James Lecil “J.L.” Huffines Jr., chairman of the Dallas-based Huffines Auto Dealerships also died. His group ranked 74th on last year's Ward's Megadealer 100. Several of his dealerships also have ranked on the Ward's Dealer 500 list for several years.
Mr. Huffines, who was 75, was the second-generation leader of Huffines Auto Dealerships in Texas. His son, Ray Huffines, is taking over as CEO for the company.
“It was a privilege to have him as a loving father,” says the new CEO. He was a great role model and mentor. I am blessed that he taught me so much about business and life. His legacy will live on through the many lives he touched.”
He tells the Dallas Business Journal he remembers his father advising him, “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only five minutes to destroy it. We are in the people business, and it's all about treating people the right way.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry says in a statement: “I am deeply saddened at the loss of a good friend. J.L. was an inspiration to me as an Aggie, an American and a Texan.”
Perry says that Huffines devoted his life to his family, served his country in time of war and built a business that employed many Texans over the years.
Meanwhile, long-time Knoxville, TN, dealer, Eugene W. Burgin, owner of Burgin Dodge died at the age of 80. He served on numerous dealer councils and was active in the National Automobile Dealers Assn.
He opened his dealership on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville in 1967. He subsequently located north of town, on Clinton Highway, where the store remains today.