Thomas Gibson, 79, co-founder of Asbury, was president of Subaru
Asbury Automotive Group Inc. co-founder and former Subaru of America chairman Thomas Gibson died June 20 at his home in Villanova, Pennsylvania. He was 79 years old.
Gibson founded Asbury Automotive Group in 1994 with financial backing from Toronto-based Onex Corp. and with the goal of buying major dealerships.
“We’re not doing this to get a quick hit,” he said. Automotive News in 1995. “We are building a good, stable, customer-oriented enterprise.”
Gibson was chairman of Asbury from the inception of the board in 1995 until 2004, a run that included Asbury’s initial public offering in 2002. He also served as CEO in the group’s early years and at acting again in 2001 after the death of his successor. He remained with the company until 2007.
Today, Asbury, of Duluth, Ga., ranks No. 5 on Automotive News‘ most recent list of the top 150 U.S.-based dealer groups, with retail sales of 109,910 new vehicles and revenue of $9.84 billion in 2021. It expects to more than triple its revenues to reach $32 billion by 2025.
“We are saddened to learn of the recent passing of Thomas Gibson,” Asbury CEO David Hult said in a statement Tuesday. “As co-founder of Asbury Automotive Group, he laid the foundation for our business that has led to our success over the past 28 years. He founded Asbury with the goal of forming a group of ‘top dealers, in the best markets, with the best brands,” and we believe we have achieved his vision. scholarship, bolstering the future success of our business. We feel the impact of his legacy in Asbury every day.”
Shortly before founding Asbury, Gibson spent a long term as president and chief operating officer of Subaru of America Inc., joining the company in 1982 and leaving in 1993, according to his LinkedIn page.
“I can’t say enough good things about Tom and how much he meant to the company and to me,” Subaru of America CEO Tom Doll said in a statement. “Tom was extremely generous with his time and mentorship, and taught me a lot early in my career at Subaru of America. He had a huge impact on the business in our early years and I lucky to have called him a good friend. He will be sorely missed.”
In the 1980s, Subaru was a top-flight, publicly traded, independent importer. But it ran into financial difficulties later in Gibson’s tenure and was taken over by vehicle manufacturer Subaru Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. during a rescue in 1990. Gibson said Automotive News Pleasure had ceased to lead the automaker’s US unit at the time of his departure. Gibson’s wife, Sophie, said his feelings stemmed not so much from company finances as from constant trips to Japan. “It was wearing him down,” she said.
Gibson briefly served as CEO of facilities operator SMG before founding Asbury, an idea his wife said he developed towards the end of his time at Subaru. SMG was successful during his tenure, but “I was deeply bored,” said Gibson, who described the auto industry as “in my blood.”
Gibson’s long career in the industry also saw him work for Ford and Chrysler. During his time at Chrysler, he served on CEO Lee Iacocca’s management team in the early 1980s and on the automaker’s board in the 2000s.
“We’ve moved nine times in 14 years,” Sophie Gibson recalls her husband’s time at the three automakers. “Subaru was our last move.”
She said her husband frequently mentored other people, not just co-workers, but children of social acquaintances. “They would come to Tom,” she said.
Gibson’s sister called him a family man, and Sophie Gibson said that although her husband worked long hours, “he didn’t bring his work home much”. He intentionally kept the two worlds separate, she said. When he got home, “he was there for the family.”
Gibson was born on September 2, 1942. His sister, Nancy Prowitt, said that although “we weren’t a total car family”, Gibson and some of his other brothers socialized with friends around a vehicle kept at the House. “There was always a clunker in our garage,” she said.
But he had no plans to specifically enter the automotive industry, his wife said. Ford “made her a good offer” after college, she said.
He held a bachelor’s degree in economics from DePauw University and an MBA from Harvard University. At the time of his death, he served on the boards of Dealer Tire, Alliance Inspection Management and Leader Auto Resources, according to his LinkedIn page.