Dennis & Co. Auto Group of Pearl River, N.Y., expanded twice over two weeks in August with purchases of Zappone Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Clifton Park, N.Y., and Infiniti of Coral Gables in Florida, its first store in the southern state.
The New York deal closed Aug. 2 and the store’s name changed to Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram of Clifton Park.
The seller, James Zappone, previously had been under contract to sell that dealership to auto retailer LMP Automotive Holdings Inc., a company now headed for dissolution.
LMP Automotive couldn’t get the financing to pay for the store and the deal was terminated this year. That deal collapse ultimately allowed Dennis & Co. to proceed with its purchase.
A dispute between LMP and Zappone continues, however.
An affiliate of LMP Automotive in May filed a lawsuit in federal court in Albany, N.Y., against Zappone, his dealership, a property management company and an escrow agent to get back the $1 million deposit the company put down for the dealership. Zappone countersued, saying the deposit belongs to him and his companies.
Zappone told Automotive News that he’s unable to comment on the lawsuit as it continues.
After selling the Clifton Park store, Zappone said he has a wholesale auto store and one Stellantis dealership in Granville, N.Y. He also has a software business.
He said he decided to sell the Clifton Park store so he can now focus on that automotive venture — VisionAST, a business that pulls information from dealership management systems to make it usable for dealership employees, including owners, general managers and salespeople. The software tracks sales and vehicle profit margins per salesperson and manager on a real-time basis, showing profitability right down to each individual employee, he said.
“It helps F&I departments become more profitable,” Zappone said. “It helps sales departments be more profitable by knowing where you stand every minute of every day, with the click of a mouse.”
Growth for Dennis & Co.
Dennis & Co. founder and CEO Brian Dennis said the Clifton Park store fits perfectly with his company brand, especially geographically, as most of the group’s stores are in metro and suburban New York markets.
“It’s a well-run store that always performed really well and caught our eye when it became available,” Dennis said. “It was an instant fit.”
He said the group plans to separate the Jeep brand into a standalone store. Clifton Park is north of Albany.
Heading south, the Aug. 16 Infiniti dealership purchase from Bernie Moreno and partner Oleg Kislyansky helped Dennis & Co. expand into a third state. The group also has a store in New Jersey.
Dennis & Co. has kept the Florida dealership’s name.
“It’s a ridiculous facility, it’s one of the nicest dealerships I’ve ever been in,” Dennis said of the Coral Gables dealership, west of Miami. “I couldn’t find a penny to put anywhere. Bernie did such a nice job there.”
Moreno, a former U.S. Senate candidate-hopeful in his home state of Ohio, for now owns no new-vehicle dealerships after having as many as 15 dealerships. Moreno slowly sold off his stores and began to focus on tech startups.
He originally intended to sell the Coral Gables store to Kislyansky. “Strategically, it just wasn’t a good fit for him,” Moreno said.
With its Florida purchase, Dennis & Co. now operates 12 dealerships in three states. The group has added numerous stores since mid-2021, with another deal expected to close soon, Dennis told Automotive News.
Stevan LaBonte, of LaBonte Law Group in Jericho, N.Y., represented Dennis & Co. in both purchases, while Willie Beck of buy-sell firm Bel Air Partners of Hopewell, N.Y., represented Moreno in the sale of his dealership. Woody Woodward, of DCG Acquisitions, a Dave Cantin Group company, represented Zappone in the sale of his dealership.