The 42-year-old son of a megadealer takes the helm of a vast enterprise that includes a 42-store dealership group.
Larry Miller, 64, founder of the namesake Larry H. Miller Group based in Sandy, UT, handed over the reins of the operation to his son Greg Miller, who becomes the second youngest CEO among the top 10 U.S. dealerships.
Larry Miller, a business icon in Utah and the Far West, decided on the transfer of authority after suffering a major heart attack in June. Miller owns 74 businesses, including the dealer group, which posted annual revenues in 2007 of $2.85 billion for a 10th-place ranking on Ward Megadealer 100.
Greg started working for his father's dealerships when he was 12 years old, rising to the position of senior vice-president of operations 19 years later.
The only principal of a top 10 dealership network younger than Greg Miller is Sonic Automotive's B. Scott Smith, age 40. Scott Smith also started working at his father's dealerships as a teen, but Sonic's business holdings, confined to dealerships and auto race tracks, are not as extensive as those of Miller's.
The Miller holdings include the Utah Jazz professional basketball team; radio and TV stations; restaurants; movie theaters; a race track; a movie production company; ranches; real estate developments, and a professional baseball team.
“It's daunting,” says Greg Miller. “But I'm not starting from scratch. Most of our businesses are seasoned with very capable people who know their industries better than I do. My role is to provide them all with resources to do their jobs.”
Larry Miller started building his empire with a Toyota store purchased from an old friend, Hugh Gardner. Greg was at the table in a restaurant when Gardner surprisingly agreed to sell the dealership to Larry. “They wrote out the terms of the deal on a check stub,” Greg recalls.
Along the way, Greg has earned his dealer spurs by running a Honda store “with mixed results” in Stockton, UT, and two used-car stores “with terrible results.” He also swept floors and worked as a salesman.
Greg is the oldest of five children and has been heir apparent for the CEO slot since 1994.
Two dealership management veterans, Orchard Nelson and Dennis Haslam, round out the executive team that runs the Miller Group.
“With 42 stores, we have our hands full,” says Greg Miller. “But last year, we sold 54,555 new and 35,236 used vehicles and topped the $7 million mark in F&I sales, despite the industry downturn.
“The sales climate could be better, but our diversity strategy has kept us on target through 2008 and we're looking for an upturn in 2009.”
The Miller dealer network is spread among six western states. Toyota is sold by seven dealers; Honda, four, and Hyundai, three. Other Miller dealerships handle Chevrolet, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Lexus, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Kia, Nissan, Ford, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Smart.