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Charlotte: Cruising ahead

Rick Hendrick’s résumé is as extensive as his collection of rare cars. He created a massive auto dealership network, helped George Shinn start the Charlotte Hornets and became a dominant owner on the NASCAR circuit.Hendrick cover

When Business North Carolina wrote about Hendrick in 1987, when he was 38, his company already ranked as the nation’s third-largest car dealer with 22 stores in eight states and annual sales of about $400 million. Hendrick Automotive Group now has 102 locations and more than 10,000 employees, and it posted $8.4 billion in revenue last year. It ranks as the largest privately held auto dealership group, according to Automotive News. The five larger groups, including Charlotte-based Sonic Automotive Inc., are publicly traded. Hendrick became chairman when former banker Ed Brown became CEO in 2011.

Along with that success, Hendrick has faced a long list of challenges: Legal problems, health issues and a devastating plane crash that took the life of his only son, Ricky. The son of a tobacco-farming father and a bank officer mother, Hendrick,67, grew up outside Norlina in Warren County. A love of cars fueled his desire to become a car salesman, initially in Raleigh. He then acquired a struggling Chevrolet franchise in Bennettsville, S.C. Success there and backing from Shinn led him to take over Charlotte’s City Chevrolet in 1978, and he hasn’t slowed down since.

“I’ve been blessed to have wonderful family and friends,” he says. The scope of Hendrick’s business has motivated his staff. “Our people know they’ll have chances to move up if they work hard and treat others — customers, co-workers —the right way.”

In 1996, Hendrick was indicted on federal charges of conspiring to bribe Honda executives to receive extra vehicles and dealerships by extending cash, cars and homes. It was simple generosity, Hendrick told authorities. The indictment came two weeks after he was diagnosed with myelogenous leukemia. A year later,  he pleaded guilty to mail fraud after admitting he sent $20,000 to a Honda executive. He paid a $250,000 fine and was sentenced to a year of home detention and a three-year probation.

President Bill Clinton later pardoned Hendrick, his leukemia went into remission and he began grooming Ricky to take on a larger company role. But in 2004, a Hendrick Motorsports Beechcraft 200 airplane crashed near Martinsville, Va., killing all 10 on board, including Ricky and Rick’s brother, John.

“All the things we’ve been through together — leukemia, the [airplane] accident — have just reinforced how important people are,” he says. “It’s faith, family and friends that get you through.”

Hendrick remains as passionate about cars as his days in Norlina. At an auction in Arizona earlier this year, Hendrick bid $1.2 million for the first 2017 Acura NSX. At nearly eight times its price tag, the bid broke the record for a car with a vehicle identification number of 001. He also owns VIN No. 001 of the 2010 Camaro, 2011 Camaro convertible, 2014 Corvette and 2015 Corvette convertible, according to Fox Sports.


Wells Fargo said it will make changes in how it compensates rank-and-file employees after agreeing to pay $185 million in penalties and $5 million to customers over allegations it created accounts without client permission. It was the largest fine ever levied by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Wells Fargo, which employs more than 23,000 here, said it had fired 5,300 employees nationally over five years related to abuses, but it did not admit or deny wrongdoing in its settlement. No senior-level executives face charges. Wells Fargo has long heralded its success encouraging customers to open multiple accounts, helping make it among the nation’s most profitable banks.


CONCORD — Yokohama Tire will invest $2.7 million in a research and development center, creating 56 jobs over the next three years. The company is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Yokohama Rubber. The new jobs will pay an average annual salary of $80,357, nearly double Cabarrus County’s $40,786.

CHARLOTTE — Data-center operator Peak 10 named Chris Downie chief executive officer, replacing David Jones. Downie comes from Telx Holdings, a data-center company based in New York. Jones, who co-founded Peak 10 in 2000, will remain chairman. Peak 10 is owned by San Francisco-based private-equity firm GI Partners.

CHARLOTTE — Red Classic, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, plans to hire about 300 workers at its Charlotte operations center in 2017. The company employs more than 1,110 people in 14 states, providing transportation and logistics services. Coke Consolidated is the largest independent Coke bottler in the United States.

CHARLOTTE — Morningstar Properties raised $90 million in its third and largest fund. The real-estate developer plans to use the money to buy and develop self-storage facilities in metro areas across the United States. Morningstar manages 41 self-storage facilities and nine marinas in 10 states.

MOORESVILLE — Home-improvement retailer Lowe’s named James Han senior vice president of business development. Han was vice president of global marketing, product management and business development at Tyco International, an Ireland-based security company that merged with Johnson Controls in September. He has a bachelor’s from Tufts University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Amanda Lea
Amanda Lea is a freelance writer in Charlotte.

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