Brian E. Kendrick, President and Chief Executive Officer of Asbury Autogroup, died Thursday evening of a sudden heart attack. Mr. Kendrick was 48.

“All of us are deeply saddened by the unexpected and untimely loss of our friend and Chief Executive. Brian was a visionary and his tremendous energy and enthusiasm will be missed. Our thoughts and sympathy are with Brian’s family,” said Timothy Collins, a Director of Asbury and CEO of Ripplewood Holdings, L.L.C. Ripplewood is the controlling shareholder of Asbury.

Thomas R. Gibson, Chairman and Co-founder of Asbury, has been named interim Chief Executive Officer until a successor is named. Mr. Gibson has spent most of his 30-year career in the automotive industry working with retail dealers. Prior to forming Asbury, Mr. Gibson was President and Chief Operating Officer of Subaru of America. “Brian was one of the most highly regarded executives in the retail industry,” said Mr. Gibson. “His leadership and dedication is evident in the strong loyalty he engendered from all 7000 employees throughout Asbury, including the CEOs of the nine operating platforms and the strong corporate management team he assembled. We are committed to building upon Brian’s leadership and vision.”

Prior to joining Asbury in November 1999, Mr. Kendrick was President and Chief Executive Officer of DFS Group Limited, which is majority owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s leading distributor of luxury goods. From 1990 to 1998, Mr. Kendrick served with the Saks Fifth Avenue luxury retail chain and its holding company, Saks Holdings, Inc, initially as Chief Financial Officer and most recently as Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to that, Mr. Kendrick was the Chief Financial Officer of Maison Blanche/Goudchaux, Inc. in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In 1987 and 1988, Mr. Kendrick held the position of Commissioner of Administration (Chief Operating Officer) for the State of Louisiana during that state’s financial crisis. He successfully led efforts to put Louisiana back on sound financial footing, restore citizen and institutional confidence, and coordinated the administration of various State entities. Mr. Kendrick was the recipient of numerous community leadership awards and was a frequent speaker at universities and industry groups.

Mr. Kendrick is survived by his wife Allison and children Jonathan, Megan, and Taylor. The family will soon be naming a charity to which memorials may be contributed in lieu of flowers.