US Auto Trust founder invests in what he loves — high-end cars

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A personal connection and an interest in cars were catalysts for an NFL team owner to enter automotive retail and quickly expand his dealership holdings via acquisitions.

Ed Glazer, an owner of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, founded US Auto Trust in Los Angeles in 2018 when he bought his first dealership, a rare Aston Martin store in Newport Beach, Calif.

“I’ve always liked cars,” Glazer told Automotive News. “I’m not a classic car collector, but always buy a lot of new cars. I’ve always owned a bunch of Aston Martins over the years and I got to know some of the people down in Aston Martin. At the time, [former Aston Martin CEO] Andy Palmer was running the place. I was talking to him one day and I said ‘You know, if you ever have anything for sale, let me know.’ He said, ‘Well, we may have something.’ ”

Pendragon, a large publicly traded auto retailer in the U.K., was in the midst of divesting its U.S. dealership portfolio, including Aston Martin Newport Beach.

“For a person who was never in the car business, to me this was perfect,” Glazer, US Auto Trust’s CEO, told Automotive News. “It’s not a very big dealership with a brand that I love. And so we bought that.”

Glazer, 53, said it didn’t take long for him to realize he enjoyed auto retail and to find similarities to the sports business.

“What was fascinating to me was the business wasn’t that different than the sports business,” he said. “You’re dealing with high level [customers], whether you’re selling a luxury suite to a sports fan, or a $300,000 sports car to a client.”

Still, Glazer pointed out that the nature of the sports business allows for a little reprieve once the season ends. Not so for automotive retail, he said.

“In the sports business, there’s a season, the season ends, you generally have six months to regroup, come up with a plan,” he said. “The auto business is just … boy, oh boy, I mean, you just don’t get a day off if you’re in the dealership business.”

Glazer, based in Los Angeles, is co-chairman of the Buccaneers, which is also owned by other members of his family. The Glazer family owns English soccer giant Manchester United of the Premier League and Glazer is on its board of directors. In November, the Glazer family said they were considering selling Manchester United, among other options, as they explore strategic alternatives.

Beyond US Auto Trust and his family’s sports businesses, Glazer is founder of US Property Trust, a commercial real estate company that owns and operates shopping centers in California, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

In less than five years, Glazer has grown US Auto Trust to eight dealerships, all in California.

From Newport Beach, US Auto Trust went south to San Diego, buying another Aston Martin dealership in 2019. Aston Martin has 35 U.S. dealerships, according to the Automotive News annual dealership census. US Auto Trust added a Jaguar-Land Rover store in Newport Beach that year.

In 2021, it bought a Jaguar-Land Rover dealership in San Jose and a standalone Land Rover store in Pasadena. And then last year, US Auto Trust bought a Cadillac dealership, a Hyundai-Genesis store and another Jaguar-Land Rover dealership, all in Southern California.

Glazer, dealer principal for each dealership and the sole owner, said he’s a hands-on operator and frequents his stores often.

Glazer works alongside Matt Kaiser, the group’s president. The pair have worked together for more than 20 years, Glazer said.

“He and I work on really growing the company,” Glazer said. “That’s what we focus on is acquisitions.”

Glazer said the group “always has things in the works” but declined to say if US Auto Trust has any acquisitions under contract.

“We’re continuing to look and our plan is continue our growth on the same way we have the last couple years,” Glazer said. “We want to continue to grow, but we want to make sure we grow with the right assets.”

Glazer said he’s looking for high-quality, highly profitable dealerships with high sales volume in the right locations.

“As long as those continue to come available, we’re gonna continue to buy,” he added.

And Glazer said he sees the group expanding into other states.

“In the beginning, just as we get our feet wet in this business, it was important to me to have local [dealerships], just so I could really get my arms on everything,” Glazer said.

Presidio Group, an investment banking and advisory firm in Denver and Atlanta, has represented sellers in deals with US Auto Trust twice in the last two years, both of which were Jaguar-Land Rover dealerships.

“They seem to believe in the automotive industry as a diversified investment,” said George Karolis, president of Presidio Group. “They’re a very good, qualified buyer that we would not be surprised to see them continue to expand.”

US Auto Trust also is set to grow via open points. Glazer said the group was awarded open points for Genesis dealerships in Pasadena, Newport Beach and Beverly Hills, Calif. Construction for each is set to start this year, Kaiser noted, with spring 2024 openings anticipated.

Glazer said the group is on pace to reach $1 billion in annual revenue by the end of 2023. Its Aston Martin Newport Beach dealership was the No. 1 Aston Martin store in the Americas region based on total new-vehicle sales in 2021 and 2022, an Aston Martin spokesperson confirmed.

Glazer did not have automotive retail experience before buying Aston Martin Newport Beach. But he’s long had enthusiasm for cars.

Both he and his late father, Malcolm, have driven Cadillacs, Glazer said. He said he just picked up a new Chevy Corvette ZO6 and drives a Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing.

“From XLRs to XLR-Vs to a Catera to you name it, I’ve owned it,” Glazer said of Cadillac vehicles. “I’ve always loved the product.”

And as US Auto Trust nears its fifth anniversary, Glazer said he’s enjoying automotive retail.

“If you want to be successful, you got to get out of bed every day and say ‘I like what I do,’ ” Glazer said.