Peter Heasty learned decades ago that a five-page letter of intent in an auto dealership transaction is the first leg of the race, not the whole distance. Getting to the finish line on a deal, the longtime buy/sell advisor and recently named president of Baker Tilly WM Dealer Acquisitions Inc. said, takes an intimate understanding of the industry, a firm grasp of the numbers, and a calming presence to keep emotions and personalities in check. For many dealers, Heasty added, the transaction represents their life’s work.
“There’s going to be rocks, there’s going to be deal-fatigue, there’s going to be egos — all kinds of stuff’s going to get in the way. “That’s where yours truly comes in,” Heasty said. “You just get me in the door, and that door is staying open.”
As a dealer himself, a chartered professional accountant and an advisor who has been doing buy/sells for more than a decade, Heasty said he brings all the street-level experience and financial expertise that dealership transactions demand, plus a natural ability to dial down the temperature in a room at key junctures.
“What you get with me is a car dealer, a car guy, who talks the talk and walks the walk for the last 40 to 50 years. I grew up in the business — my father was a dealer — but you also get a full spectrum of professional services.”
The big four accounting firms still have their mergers and acquisitions departments that deal with dealership buy/sells, Heasty said, but they’re generalists.
“When the going gets tough and you go and speak car dealer language and wade into intricate industry issues, they can’t necessarily do that.”