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story.lead_photo.caption New cars fill the lot Monday at Everett Buick GMC in Bentonville. RML Automotive NWA closed on a deal Monday to purchase the dealership and Everett’s Chevrolet dealership and Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat dealership, both in Springdale. - Photo by Charlie Kaijo

Three Northwest Arkansas car dealerships owned by The Everett Group have been acquired by a group with an established Arkansas footprint and companies linked to notables with Arkansas connections -- Johnelle Hunt and Jerry Jones.

The Everett Group sold its Buick-GMC dealership in Bentonville along with its Chevrolet operation and its Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat dealership, both located in Springdale, to RML Automotive NWA. The dealerships will be renamed and will operate under the McLarty Daniel banner. The acquisition also includes a Springdale collision center.

The deal closed Monday, and its terms were not disclosed.

RML Automotive NWA includes RML Automotive, JH Auto Holdings LLC, and Blue and Silver Ventures. JH Auto Holdings is a Hunt family entity, and Blue and Silver Ventures is owned by Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Russ Daniel, managing partner and operator of McLarty Daniel dealerships in Bentonville, said the timing was right for the deal and that the move showed the company's commitment to the Northwest Arkansas market. Before the deal, there were three McLarty Daniel dealerships in Bentonville.

Combined, the new operation will have six dealerships and employ more than 600 people. Daniel said he didn't anticipate any job losses as a result of the acquisition. He said the employees who were part of the Everett operations were the most valuable component of the deal.

RML Automotive, with $1.6 billion in annual sales, runs 25 dealerships that include 54 franchises and seven collision centers. In addition to its Arkansas locations, it operates in Alabama, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas. RML has corporate offices in Little Rock and Dallas.

Johnelle Hunt, an entrepreneur, developer and co-founder of Lowell-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc., is one of the richest women in the U.S. She ranked No. 288 on the Forbes 2017 list of richest Americans with a net worth of $2.8 billion as of October. She also was ranked No. 8 on the magazine's list of richest self-made women.

Jones was a member of the 1964 national championship football team for the Arkansas Razorbacks. He ranked No. 95 on the 2017 Forbes list, with $5.6 billion. The Cowboys are the most valuable sports team in the world, according to Forbes.

Auto sales in the U.S. stood at 17.2 million in 2017, down from 17.5 million during a record-setting 2016 but still the fourth-highest year on record, behind 2000 and 2015. It was the first decline in annual auto sales since 2009. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, Arkansas in 2016 had 211 new-car dealerships that employed nearly 10,000 people directly and booked sales of $8.2 billion.

Founded in 2006, The Everett Group is privately held and still owns Arkansas dealerships in Bryant and Benton and two dealerships in Texas.

Chad Hendrix, a partner in The Everett Group, said the time was right to sell its Northwest Arkansas dealerships and that the family-owned business would focus on its remaining operations. The company still employs more than 450 people.

"It's a good time to make this move," Hendrix said.

Business on 02/27/2018

Print Headline: 3 NW car lots bought by Hunt-Jones group

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