Athletes and Dealerships - More Strikeouts Than Homeruns

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A Minneapolis Business Journal Reporter called me the other day to tell me Twins catcher Joe Mauer had just bought the land on which Denny Hecker's Southview Chevrolet (now closed) sits. Once his story printed, Mauer's brother Bill called the reporter to say he had bought the land, not his brother Joe.

The source for the story was the Mauers' grandfather who claimed Joe was setting Bill (who had been a sales manager at Southview) up with the dealership. Bill declined to say how he paid for the land.

To read story, click: Joe Mauer buys auto lot formerly run by Hecker.

Bill (or Joe) Mauer reportedly is trying to get the rights to the GM franchise, but the auto maker is blocking the plate, so to speak, in true Mauer fashion. For the record, Joe Mauer grew up in the Minneapolis region and is the best catcher in Major League Baseball today, and potentially will be the best catcher in the history of the game once he retires. In other words, he's a Minneapolis icon.

A couple of years ago, this would have been a no-brainer for GM. But now, the world is much different. Unfortunately for Mauer, this is one hit he likely won't get.

GM is in the process of eliminating about 1,300 dealerships (not counting Saturn, Saab and Hummer). Anyone getting a GM franchise today is going to have to have a proven track record of running a dealership.

For Bill, being a sales manager in the Southview dealership actually could be a strike against him. It was part of Denny Hecker's empire which suffered a specatular collapse late last year. In fact, a grand jury right now is deliberating whether to bring charges against Hecker. He allegedly has defaulted on approximately more than a billion dollars in loans along with having a DUI in the last 12 months.

In other words, working for Hecker is not something to put on the resume when trying to get a dealership.

Another issue is that athletes in recent years have a had a poor track record owning dealerships. Several years ago, Mel Farr, a former Detroit Lion and Ford favorite, watched his automotive empire collapse. He targeted the subprime market, a tough one to succeed in.

In February, former Houston Oilers defensive lineman Ray Childress shut down his 40-acre auto mall in Texas while New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister closed his Jackson, MS, Nissan dealership in March after filing bankruptcy.

Michael Jordan's Lincoln Mercury store in North Carolina also closed earlier this year although, his Nissan dealership still is going strong.

One group of athletes that have done well in the auto business are race car drivers. Roger Penske has the second largest dealer group in the world while Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports, owns more than 60 dealerships across the country. There are several others.

For now, it looks like Mauer will end up owning an expensive used-car lot.

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