New Strategy

A change in Sonic Automotive Inc.'s acquisition strategy led the resignation of its president, Theodore Wright. Jeffrey Rachor, the company's chief operating officer, succeeds him. Wright, 41, started with the company when it consisted of only four dealerships. Since then, he has implemented an aggressive acquisition strategy that took Sonic to 200 dealerships with about $7 billion in annual revenue.

A change in Sonic Automotive Inc.'s acquisition strategy led the resignation of its president, Theodore Wright. Jeffrey Rachor, the company's chief operating officer, succeeds him.

Wright, 41, started with the company when it consisted of only four dealerships. Since then, he has implemented an aggressive acquisition strategy that took Sonic to 200 dealerships with about $7 billion in annual revenue.

But in January, Sonic said that it was shifting its strategy from buying dealerships to improving internally its existing operations. As a result, company officials expect to make no acquisitions in 2004.

Wright says the slower growth strategy is right for Sonic. “It is the healthy, natural development as a company moves through its life cycles,” he says.

Wright is leaving just as the publicly traded automotive retail group appears to be righting itself following a difficult 2003. With $6.6 billion in total revenues in 2003, Sonic ranks third on the Ward's Top 100 Megadealer survey.

Meanwhile, retired Ford group vice-president William P. Benton has been re-elected to another term as a Sonic director, but veteran auto analyst Maryann N. Keller completed a 32-month hitch without seeking another term.

Benton, 80, has been on the Sonic board since it went public in 1997. He served as general of both Ford and Lincoln-Mercury divisions during his 37-year career at Ford.

Retired Ford group vice-president Robert L. Rewey, 65, also serves on Sonic's board. (See End Game column on page 56)

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