Warren Buffett’s new auto group acquires Frank Kent Honda in Fort Worth

Will Churchill and Corrie Watson at the 2010 opening of the new Frank Kent Honda showroom. The two sold the dealership to Berkshire Hathaway Automotive.
Will Churchill and Corrie Watson at the 2010 opening of the new Frank Kent Honda showroom. The two sold the dealership to Berkshire Hathaway Automotive. Star-Telegram archives

Frank Kent Honda in southwest Fort Worth, owned by one of the state’s oldest family-owned dealerships, has been acquired by the newly formed Berkshire Hathaway Automotive group.

The sale of the dealership by Will Churchill and Corrie Watson, his sister, closed March 2. Churchill said it marks Berkshire Hathaway Automotive’s first acquisition since it was formed in October with a deal to buy the Van Tuyl Group of dealerships. Frank Kent Honda has been renamed Honda of Fort Worth.

Churchill said Monday that the two decided it was best to sell the dealership after the unexpected death of Corrie Watson’s husband.

Tim Watson, who worked at the dealership, died in September, and Corrie was having a difficult time being at the business without him, Will Churchill said. It was sold to help her heal, he said.

“The situation presented itself,” Churchill said. “It wasn’t a scheduled sale. It wasn’t a distress sale.”

All of the dealership’s employees who wanted to stay with the new owner, about 120, did so, he said.

In 2010, the Churchills opened the $18 million new Honda showroom and facilities at 3400 W. Loop 820.

“We built if for success and for growth,” Churchill said. “It was tough, saying goodbye to people we’ve worked with for 20-plus years.”

Frank Kent Motor Co. still owns and operates the family’s Cadillac, Hyundai and Fisker dealerships.

On Tuesday, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced that it has completed its acquisition of Phoenix-based Van Tuyl Group, the largest privately owned auto dealer in the U.S. with 78 independently operated dealerships and more than 100 franchises in 10 states. Berkshire Hathaway Automotive is now headquartered in Dallas and headed by Jeffrey C. Rachor, the former president of Van Tuyl.

“This is the beginning of a journey that will have no end,” Buffett said in a prepared statement. The deal gives Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire “the ideal platform with which to build an auto dealership business that will be thriving and growing 50 and 100 years from now.”

In Tarrant County, the Van Tuyl deal included Grapevine Ford, Grapevine Lincoln, Texas Toyota, Texas Nissan of Grapevine and the Vandergriff dealerships — Acura, Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai, Scion and Toyota — in Arlington.

Frank Kent Honda had been owned by the Churchills since 2005, when they inherited the business on the death of their mother, Wendy Kent Churchill. Churchill, the granddaughter of Frank Kent, acquired the dealership in 1993 when the company bought out the Bill McDavid dealerships.

Frank Kent started the GMC Truck Co. in Fort Worth in 1917. He organized the Frank Kent Motor Co. in 1935. Kent died in 1987. In 1999, Wendy Kent Churchill assumed ownership.

In Fort Worth, Berkshire Hathaway owns BNSF Railway, Acme Brick, Justin Brands and TTI in Fort Worth. It is also opening the Nebraska Furniture Mart in The Colony this spring.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727