The scandal-ridden owner of Prime Automotive Group, which operates seven dealerships in Maine, is selling the chain to a Texas-based company.

Group 1 Automotive Inc. of Houston issued a news release Monday saying it has entered into an agreement to purchase Prime Automotive from GPB Capital Holdings, a New York investment firm that has become the target of investor lawsuits and criminal allegations. Terms of the purchase agreement were not disclosed.

GPB Capital has been swirling in controversy for years, capped in February when its chief executive was arrested and charged with fraud. However, Prime Automotive has continued to operate successfully, according to the release, with its 30 dealerships generating $1.8 billion in revenue in 2020, selling over 52,000 new and used vehicles.

Group 1 is a Fortune 500 automotive retailer with 188 dealerships in the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil, according to the release. It is a publicly traded company whose shares are sold on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol GPI. The company is also heavily invested in online car sales through its website.

“Group 1 has successfully operated in the Northeastern U.S. for many years. We are pleased to have this opportunity to leverage our existing cost structure and to further diversify our U.S. footprint,” said Earl J. Hesterberg, Group 1’s president and CEO, in the release.

Prime Automotive operates 30 dealerships and three collision centers in the Mid-Atlantic and New England markets including Prime Toyota, Prime Volkswagen, Prime Ford, Prime Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM and Prime Honda, all in Saco.


In addition to the fraud charges and lawsuits filed by investors, GPB Capital is being sued by David Rosenberg, whose late father, Ira Rosenberg, built a string of dealerships in Maine and then sold them to the investment firm in 2017.

David Rosenberg, who was originally named head of the dealerships by the new owner, was fired after he reported concerns over the financial dealings of GPB Capital and Prime Automotive. Rosenberg’s suit alleges that GPB Capital has not bought back his ownership stake in Prime Automotive as was outlined in his employment contract.

GPB Capital and its related entities also faces lawsuits filed by a Texas law firm, which alleges the company defrauded investors of $1.8 billion; and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which said 180 investors in the state have lost $14 million.

Those lawsuits echo many of Rosenberg’s allegations. He said the parent firm promised to pay investors from profits, but instead used money from new investors to pay those who had put in money before. In that way, he said, it operated like an illegal Ponzi scheme.

Both Toyota and Volkswagen have threatened to revoke franchise agreements with their affiliated Prime Automotive dealerships in Saco as a result of alleged breaches of contract stemming from the ouster of David Rosenberg. The automakers have demanded that the dealerships be sold or Rosenberg be reinstated as CEO.

In its announcement Monday, Group 1 said the Prime Automotive acquisition will allow it to expand operations in both the physical and digital realms.

“We know Prime’s markets well and the opportunities they represent,” said Group 1 Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Daniel McHenry in the release. “We are also proud to welcome Prime Automotive’s 1,800 employees as new teammates to the Group 1 family.”

Group 1 operates dealerships in nearby Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but the Prime Automotive acquisition would represent its first expansion into Maine.

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