French leads group trying to buy Heard Columbus dealership

Former Bill Heard Cadillac general manager Chris French confirmed Tuesday morning that he is involved in a group making an offer to buy the closed Bill Heard Columbus automobile dealerships.

"What we are trying to do is get the employees back to work," French said. "This is not only for me and my investors, but there are a whole lot of folks out there without a job."

Columbus-based Bill Heard Enterprises, one of the nation's largest Chevrolet dealer, closed its 14 stores across the country last week and filed for federal bankruptcy protection on Sunday. More than 2,700 people lost their jobs and health insurance, including more than 300 in Columbus.

French, who worked for Bill Heard for 17 years and was well known for his "Mark-’em-all-down" commercials, declined to name the investors, but he did say it was a complicated deal because of the bankruptcy filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Alabama, Northern Division.

"This is not like buying a pair of shoes because there are so many people involved," French said. "You have the Bankruptcy Court, creditors, General Motors. It's a complicated deal."

Heard Enterprises still owns the dealerships. Any sale would have to be approved by General Motors, Chevrolet's parent company, and Bankruptcy Court Judge Jack Caddell in Decatur, Ala.

"We would like to open it back up tomorrow, but that is not going to be the case," French said. French's investment group hopes to have a letter of intent to purchase the Columbus store before the end of the day, he said.

He is the second local buyer to take a run at the Columbus dealership in the last week. Local automobile dealer Carl Gregory, who has been in Columbus for more than 20 years, made a run at buying the store before Sunday's bankruptcy filing. He met on several occasions last week with Bill Heard Jr., chief executive officer of Heard Enterprises, but never got a deal.

Heard's bankruptcy filing stated the company was liquidating its assets. Heard Enterprises has been in talks with people throughout the country about the possibility of selling dealerships. Charlotte dealer Rick Hendricks, a successful NASCAR team owner, said in a statement last week he had talked to Heard Enterprises, but did not indicate if any offers had been made or a deal was close.