Retail

Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. buys majority position in Morgan Tire & Auto

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Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. (BFS) has announced it has purchased a majority position in Morgan Tire & Auto Inc. (MTA), a privately held, independent tire retailer based in Clearwater, Fla.

Morgan Tire & Auto is North America's second largest independent tire store chain, according to Modern Tire Dealer statistics, with 558 outlets and estimated 2000 sales of $573 million.

Under a progressive plan, Bridgestone/Firestone will eventually acquire full ownership of the company. Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

"Bridgestone/Firestone is an ideal strategic partner, because we share similar corporate cultures and we are working toward the same goals and objectvies," said Larry Morgan, president, CEO and chairman of MTA.

MTA will operate independently as a majority-owned subsidiary of BFS. Morgan will continue to manage the company as president, CEO and chairman.

MTA will remain an integral part of the Bridgestone/Firestone Family Channel, which includes independent dealers, retailers and company-owned stores. MTA will remain a multi-brand concept retailer. It currently sells Bridgestone, Firestone, Continental, Dayton, Falken, General, Gillette, Road King, Yokohama, Goodyear and Michelin brand tires.

"This strategic alliance will enable us to solidify our Family Channel and further grow our position in the marketplace," said Shu Ishibashi, president of U.S. Consumer Tire and executive vice president of BFS. "We have a complementary relationship with MTA, our company-owned stores and our dealer networks, and together we can expand our customer base."

BFS says it remains committed to its Family Channel of independent dealers and company-owned BFS stores. It will continue to support all Family Channels members with products, promotions and programs to drive additional retail business, the company says. "As in the past, MTA will be an important Family Channel member and will follow the directions and guidelines of BFS Family Channel and its area marketing policies," the company added.

"Customers of Morgan Tire & Auto will see no change in the high level of personal service they have come to rely on from our company," Morgan said. "The overall objective is to continue to improve our service levels for customers.

"This relationship provides us with access to opportunities and resources of a larger company, yet we will remain separate and entrepreneurial," Morgan said.

"I have a 36-year history with Firestone, first as an employee and then as a customer," Morgan added. "We have a great relationship, and I am very confident in their management team and the way they conduct business."

"Morgan Tire & Auto has been a loyal customer for many years and has grown to become one of our largest customers," Ishibashi said. "We look forward to continuing our strong relationship to further the growth and success of both companies."

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