Johnelle Hunt, Jerry Jones involved in Everett Automotive acquisitions in Northwest Arkansas

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 17,646 views 

Two of Arkansas’ most famous business icons have entered the state’s retail automotive industry.

A group of investors has completed a deal to purchase three Northwest Arkansas car dealerships from privately owned Everett Automotive Group: Everett Chevrolet (Springdale), Everett Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat (Springdale) and Everett Buick GMC (Bentonville).

The new owner is an entity called RML Automotive NWA LLC, whose members include RML Automotive Holdings — a dealership group based in Little Rock and Dallas — JH Auto Holdings LLC and Blue & Silver Ventures Ltd.

Financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed.

JH Auto Holdings is a Hunt family entity led by J.B. Hunt Transport co-founder and philanthropist Johnelle Hunt. Blue & Silver Ventures is an entity of Jerry Jones, the owner, president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys.

Hunt is chairman of Hunt Ventures in Rogers, a privately held development and investment company. Jones, a North Little Rock native who graduated from the University of Arkansas, has owned the Cowboys since 1989.

Both are members of the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

The dealerships will begin operating Monday (Feb. 26) under the name McLarty Daniel, a company of RML Automotive, a $1.6 billion operation owned by the founder and former chairman of Black Entertainment Television (BET) Robert L. Johnson and Arkansas businessman Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, who is also in the state’s business hall of fame.

RML Automotive consists of 25 dealerships representing 54 franchises and seven collision centers across seven states. The acquisition doubles the company’s holdings in Northwest Arkansas from three to six dealerships, with more than 600 employees. Existing dealerships in the region are McLarty Daniel Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, McLarty Daniel Ford and McLarty Daniel Nissan, all in Bentonville. McLarty Daniel has also assumed ownership of an Everett collision center at the Springdale location.

The Ford dealership broke ground last fall on a $10 million, 46,000-square-foot building to replace the dealership’s existing building at 2609 S. Walton Blvd. The Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership moved into a new $12 million facility on Moberly Lane in 2015.

Russ Daniel, managing partner and operator of the McLarty Daniel dealerships in Bentonville, said all employees and staff of the Everett dealerships will be retained.

After opening in 2008, Everett Buick GMC of Bentonville has been recognized as the number one Buick GMC dealer in Northwest Arkansas and in the top 15 of highest selling volume GMC dealerships in the nation. Everett Chevrolet in Springdale has been the top Chevrolet store in the state each year since opening in 2011. Everett Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat has earned several factory awards since opening in 2013 including Fiat Chrysler’s inaugural “Customer First” award in 2016 and again in 2017 and 2018.

“This creates one of the largest and most capable dealership groups in Northwest Arkansas and expands our brand coverage to deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction and value,” Daniel said. “It also allows us to increase the size and scope of our community support.”

Everett Auto Group, which is headquartered in Bryant, opened its first dealership in 2006 with 50 employees. The business is owned by Dwight and Susie Everett and two of their sons-in-law, Chad Hendrix and Brandon Hudspeth.

The family owns four other automotive dealerships — Everett Buick GMC in Bryant, Infiniti of Central Arkansas in Benton and two Toyota dealerships in northeast Texas.

Hendrix said the reasons for selling three auto dealerships in one of the country’s fastest-growing regions are rooted simply in a desire to scale back the company’s operations.

“This was a very hard decision with a lot of mixed emotions,” he said. “For us, it’s a good time to exit and focus on our business here [in central Arkansas], and for them, it’s an opportunity to grow what they already have. Their character and integrity matches well with the way we do business, and it was just good timing and a good match with a good buyer.”