Two public transactions in the last month involving Jay Automotive Group point to possible changes at the longtime Columbus car dealership.
Thursday, the Development Authority of Columbus approved a measure that would allow Jay Leasing Inc. to redeem $10 million in 20-year bonds that were sold in 2009. Jay Leasing owned the bonds on the property at 1661 Whittlesey Road, site of Jay Stelzenmuller's six dealerships. The development authority bonds allowed the company to take advantage of reduced property taxes. The early redemption of the bonds means Jay Leasing does not owe any money to the development authority on the nearly 24.5-acre tract in Bradley Park.
Prior to the Development Authority -- a public entity that recruits and finances business deals for the city -- taking action, an authority member asked if the bond redemption indicated a possible sale of the business. Authority attorney Rob McKenna responded that he did not know. Another member said he had heard the business had been sold, and McKenna responded that would be a reason for paying off the bonds.
No one spoke on behalf of Jay Leasing at the authority meeting in the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
Stelzenmuller, president of the Jay Automotive Group, has twice in the last month denied there was a deal in place. He could not be reached for comment Thursday and has not spoken to a Ledger-Enquirer reporter in three weeks.
Last month, a Houston-based company already in the Columbus market filed in Muscogee County Superior Court to trademark new names for the six Jay dealerships in Bradley Park.
The Toyota, Subaru, Scion, Mazda, Buick-GMC and Volvo dealerships -- all currently part of the Jay Automotive Group -- were trademarked under the Rivertown name, according to court documents.
Group 1 Automotive, a large international dealer, owns Rivertown Ford, just across Whittlesey Road from the Jay dealerships. Group 1 purchased the Ford dealership from Richard Stephens in December of last year.
A spokesman for Group 1 had no comment last month when asked about the Jay dealerships.
"Group 1 can't comment on anything right now because they are in a quiet period," said Brian Block of Pierpont, the Texas public relations firm to which Group 1 referred all questions.
Asked about the Superior Court filings, Block said, "We don't respond to speculation."
Group 1 owns and operates 140 automotive dealerships, 179 franchises and 35 collision centers offering 33 brands of automobiles in the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil. Through its dealerships, the company sells new and used cars and light trucks; arranges related vehicle financing, service and insurance contracts; provides automotive maintenance and repair services; and sells vehicle parts.