Buffett's bet on autos: Berkshire's car guy talks

For Larry Van Tuyl, it only took seven years to convince one of the world's best-known investors—and himself—that it was time to sell the family business.


King of the road
King of the road   

"We've had the businesses, between my father and myself, for 62 years, and my biggest concern was to be able to perpetuate" the company's culture, said Larry Van Tuyl. His father started a Chevrolet dealership in Kansas City in 1955 that has grown into the largest privately owned auto dealer in the country. The 78-dealer, $8 billion Van Tuyl Group sells automobiles in 10 U.S. states.

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This week, Van Tuyl agreed to sell the auto group to Berkshire Hathaway, a deal that has been in the works since he first met Berkshire Chairman & CEO Warren Buffett more than seven years ago.

"I looked for something that I thought was similar," in terms of culture and corporate values, said Van Tuyl. "And really there was only one, and it was Berkshire Hathaway."

Shoppers at the Toyota of Deerfield car dealership in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
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Shoppers at the Toyota of Deerfield car dealership in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

As far as the length of time this deal was in development, "it took me that long to make sure that I was personally ready," said Van Tuyl, who will stay on at the newly-branded Berkshire Automotive Group.

"It's something that we'll own for a hundred years," said Buffett. "It's the kind of business we can expand a lot, because there's 17,000 dealers in the country and we're buying 78 of them."