As many of you know, Bill Heard Chevrolet kept me busy for many months. The calls and emails about unscrupulous sales tactics there seemed never-ending. I’ve posted most of our stories below in case you didn’t see them.
The latest news this week comes from Fort Bend Now, a newspaper out of Sugar Land.
January 26th, 2009 | by Bob Dunn
Parkway Chevrolet owner Jean Durdin’s bid to buy the Bill Heard Sugar Land Chevrolet dealership has fallen through, and instead Durant Auto Group is in the driver’s seat.
Judge Jack Caddell, presiding over Bill Heard Enterprises’ huge bankruptcy case, approved the sale of the Sugar Land dealership to the Durant group on Jan. 21, according to Bill Heard’s financial advisor in the bankruptcy case.
The group is controlled by Tom Durant, and owns Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, and other dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Durant Financial Director Don Kerstetter said his company hopes to close on the deal within two months.
Kerstatter will head up the Sugar Land dealership assuming the transaction is completed. He said his company wants to upgrade some older equipment, and soon will be looking for employees.
City of Sugar Land sources say Bill Heard employed about 300 at the dealership. Kerstetter said Durant may not employ as many right away, but could build up to close to that number.
He said he would be concentrating first on fixed operations employees, such as parts and service. While they’ll also be interviewing sales and managers, “we’re going to bring on some of our own managers” in key positions.
“We want to make sure they understand our culture and our dedication to customer service,” Kerstatter said.
“We’re excited. We’re expecting to go down there and be very successful,” he added. “I think everyone will see we are the polor opposit of the way Bill Heard did business down there.”
News accounts show Heard Enterprises was involved in numerous consumer complaints in several states, and the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs had filed a $50 million suit against the company for deceptive advertising.
In Houston, Better Business Bureau
records show 142 complaints had been filed against Bill Heard Sugar Land over the past three years.
Including 14 mostly Chevrolet dealerships, Bill Heard Enterprises filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in September of 2008.
Once generating $2.5 billion in annual sales, the company racked up debts totaling between $500 million and $1 billion, according to the Chapter 11 filing. About $40 million of that is unsecured, according to Heard’s financial adviser in the case.
In November 2008, Judge Caddell accepted a $20 million bid by Durdin of Tomball’s Parkway Chevrolet, during an auction in which she topped an earlier bid by Houston car dealer Mac Haik by more than $7.7 million.
But, according to bankruptcy court documents, more than a month passed since Bill Heard Enterprises and the bankruptcy court signed off on an asset purchase agreement for the Sugar Land dealership, “and since that time Buyer has indicated that she does not have financing in place to close the purchase.”
In mid-December, Bill Heard sent a demand letter to Durdin to consummate the sale, and later sent a letter of intent to terminate the sales agreement, court documents show.
About a month later, the court approved a deal that, if completed, would put Durant in control of the Sugar Land dealership.
Kerstetter said some of Bill Heard’s inventory has been sitting on the Sugar Land lot since September, when the bankruptcy case was filed.
But “there are rumors that some of the older inventory has been removed,” he said.
Ketstetter said the Sugar Land Heard dealership was very successful, and was ranked No. 18 in the country in terms of Chevy sales despite being shuttered for the last three months of the year.
By contrast, he said, Durant’s Classic Chevrolet has been the highest-volume single dealership for Chevrolets for the past three years in a row.
At last check, the Harris County Tax Office was still working with the investigators at TxDOT and the State Comptroller’s Office to try and waive the registration, tax, title and sales tax for about 60 customers who purchased vehicles from Bill Heard and LandMark Chevrolet, but could not get the proper tags for them.
A representative with the Tax Assessor’s office told me that everything was tied up in the bankruptcy and that the dealerships were still in possession of the paperwork and license plates.
That same representative told me when Bill Heard wrote a check to the Fort Bend Tax Office, it bounced.
I couldn’t help snapping these pictures of Landmark’s sad, empty parking lot when I passed by.