A deal to sell controlling interest in the financially troubled Columbus Nissan dealership to Jay Automotive Group could leave a nearly complete Nissan store in North Columbus vacant.
Jay Stelzenmuller, owner of Columbus-based Jay Automotive, said Thursday if a federal Bankruptcy Court judge and Nissan Motors approve the deal, he would put the Nissan dealership in the Bradley Park space currently occupied by his Saturn store.
General Motors is discontinuing the Saturn line and Stelzenmuller’s deal with Saturn will expire next year. Jay currently has about 50 new Saturns on the lot and when they are sold, that franchise will go away.
“Our intent is to put it there,” Stelzenmuller said.
Doll & Doll owner Rob Doll began construction on a new $9 million store last year. Work was halted by Phillips Construction Co. on June 1 when it failed to get paid. RWD Real Estate LLC, a Doll-controlled entity and owner of the building and more than 14 acres at the intersection of Whitesville and Whittlesey roads, was financing the deal with Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.
The subcontractors forced RWD Real Estate into bankruptcy as Nissan Motor Acceptance was moving forward with foreclosure proceedings.
Stelzenmuller said the new building is not in his plans.
“That is a different company that is also in bankruptcy,” Stelzenmuller said. “Now, if they want to sell it at market price, I will talk to them.”
The property has appraised for $12.5 million, Doll said.
Nissan spokesperson Fred Standish said Thursday the automaker was still analyzing the proposed agreement.
Doll and Stelzenmuller have been talking about a deal since late May. Doll & Doll, which operates Rob Doll Nissan on Box Road, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sept. 17. That forced Doll and Stelzenmuller to submit their sale agreement to Judge John T. Laney III for approval.
The terms of the deal were filed with the court late Wednesday.
Doll will own 49 percent of the business and be general manager and president. Stelzenmuller will be chairman of the board and own 51 percent. Doll has an employment agreement with Jay Automotive that would pay him $200,000 annually for two years and provide health insurance and other benefits.
“There are no hidden terms,” Stelzenmuller said. “It is an asset purchase agreement and an employment agreement. That is the sum total of our agreement.”
Stelzenmuller said Doll would be active in the company and the community.
“Rob is good with public relations,” Stelzenmuller said. “He loves to interface with politicians and attend social activities. At my age, I’d just as soon let him do that. That works out well for both of us.”
Doll has been fighting for months to keep his business afloat. Nissan Motor Acceptance cut off financing for his new car inventory in April. The dealership’s inability to find another company to provide inventory financing, commonly referred to as floor-plan financing, put Doll & Doll in violation of its dealership agreement with Nissan.
In June, Nissan notified Doll that the company was in violation and served notice it would sever the agreement on Sept. 17. The Doll-Stelzenmuller deal still must be approved by Nissan.
“I don’t see that as a problem,” Stelzenmuller said. “Nissan cites that Doll & Doll Motor Company can’t fulfill the terms of its agreement because it can’t provide floor-plan financing. We can cure that.”
Stelzenmuller was not the only local dealer Doll was talking to about a possible sale. He also talked with at least one other dealer, Emanuel Jones, owner of Legacy Chevrolet, Cadillac, Saab.
“He did share his financials with me and I looked at the deal three or four months ago,” said Jones, who bought the former Bill Heard dealership out of bankruptcy. “The offer that he presented to me, I didn’t seriously consider.”
That said, Jones said he believes the Stelzenmuller, Doll partnership can be successful.
“I think it has a chance to work,” Jones said. “It took a lot of time for them to negotiate. They have both been in business for a long time. What Rob was looking for was an infusion of cash and what Jay was looking for was somebody to operate the business.”
Doll said news of the deal has been received well in the community.
“I have had a lot of positive feedback,” Doll said. “A lot of my friends have been praying for me and are happy to see some resolution on the horizon.”