I’ve always enjoyed watching infomercials on television. It doesn’t matter what the product is, I enjoy watching how the salesperson makes me think it will solve every problem in the universe, and I must order it today.

Plus, I always wait for the great phrase, “But wait — there’s more!”

Most of us think Ron Popeil from Ronco invented the saying, what with his wide array of gadgets. But Ed Valenti is actually given credit from his infamous “Ginsu Knives” days.

Even as I write these Publisher’s Notes in the waning days of 2019, I’m reminded of “But wait — there’s more!”

But wait — there’s more: Bob Ulrich

2019 was truly a roller-coaster year for all of us at Modern Tire Dealer. Even as we celebrated our 100th anniversary and had great fun sharing industry history with you in our magazine, I also knew that it would be a transitional year for us.

Bob Ulrich, MTD’s long-time editor, had told me several years ago about his tentative retirement plans. Naturally, I ignored him. Mid-year, he came to my office and confirmed the date: January 2020. We both joked that he probably should never have said anything about his plans in this era of “by-the-book” HR policies.

But, after 34 years of working closely together to make sure that MTD is the best of the best, let’s just say we threw out the policy manual and kept the news to ourselves. At the same time, the search was on to find his perfect replacement.

Mike and his highly skilled team are definitely poised to move MTD forward, utilizing a wide variety of platforms.

Bob made life easy for me after he was named editor in 2000. He was already deeply ingrained in the industry, and he understood how it operated, right down to understanding the multitude of personalities and their interactions within this highly vertical business.

On top of everything, he passionately cared about the industry and the role that MTD played within it. In all of the years Bob and I have worked together, I can almost count on one hand those times when we had major disagreements. Even better, after the disagreements, we moved on and never looked back.

Bob is “the best of the best.

But wait — there’s more: Mike Manges

As I began the search for a new editor, several highly qualified candidates came to mind. Then, I heard Mike Manges was available.

Mike had previously worked for MTD before moving on to work for several companies on the public relations side of the business.  Even after he had left, people would ask about Mike. They wanted to know how he was doing and almost always would end their question with, “Mike’s a great guy.” This happened so often that it was a standing joke between Bob and me. It was as though neither of us mattered. People wanted Mike.

After talking with Mike, it didn’t take long to realize that he would be the perfect person to take over as editor of MTD. When I announced that Mike would be joining the magazine and ultimately taking over as editor when Bob retired, I knew I had made the right decision when Bob did his impersonation of Tiger Woods’ fist pump, with a loud “Yes!”

For the past several months, both Bob and Mike have been working together to ensure a seamless transition. Mike and his highly skilled team are definitely poised to move MTD forward, utilizing a wide variety of platforms. Even better, Mike knows the industry and its many subtle nuances, which allows him to present to you the best possible information about it.

But wait — there’s more: Mergers and Acquisitions

The year-end announcement by Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc., the nation’s fifth largest independent tire store chain, that it was for sale may have initially come as a shock to many, but it shouldn’t have. 

It’s a continuation of M&A activity that’s been rampant for quite some time. As a friend of mine has told me, the cost of money right now is cheap. And money is plentiful.

There’s no doubt that many more of the large distribution players, whether on the wholesale or retail side of the industry, will be involved in M&A activity in 2020. My guess, however, is that many executives are going to watch the structure and dollar amount that Les Schwab commands very closely.

Ultimately, whenever a deal of this size takes place, new companies form and start their rise in the market. And it begins anew.

But wait — there’s still more!

Coming full circle, an announcement like Les Schwab’s is one of those events that always allowed Bob Ulrich and me to guess who would be interested in purchasing the company and why. In fact, truth be told, we’d also conjecture who might be next on the M&A list and why. And that’s something I’ll miss. 

Mike, as you’re reading this, be prepared: You’re in the bullpen.    ■

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at greg.smith@bobit.com.

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