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Two corporate titans clash in the collector car world

Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Rob Meyers is perplexed.

The founder of RM Auctions, now RM Sotheby’s, has been in the collector car world for decades, having built his restoration company and auction house into a powerhouse.

Still, despite all of his years in the business, some things still puzzle him. Like collector car judging, where old men wearing blue blazers, straw hats, tan slacks and frowns determine which cars merit prizes and which ones don’t.

“If you've got a car out there that is just by far the most superior car on the field — but let's say a parking light is not working at that moment — does that mean the car loses because of parking light didn't work?” Meyers asks. Certainly, it’s happened.

But Meyers has a lot to questions with the approach of the 2024 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida, the first time the show will be held without RM Sotheby’s since the show started in 1996.

Tradition has long guided the world of the concours d’elegance, a series of high-end, invitation-only car shows best typified by the granddaddy of the genre, the glossy, over-hyped and overfed Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California. By that standard, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is the Southern rebel, despite retaining certain elements of other concours. It's one that many in the hobby have long admired, with a noted car designer explaining that everyone goes to Pebble Beach because they have to, but that they also go to Amelia Island because they want to.

 

That’s due to Amelia Island’s founder, Bill Warner, a photographer for Road & Track magazine since 1971 who built the show into a must-attend event, one held at The Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island. Warner sold the show to niche insurer Hagerty Inc. in 2021, which had also acquired the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance in 2019 and Michigan’s Concours d'Elegance of America in 2020. Hagerty made a host of changes to the shows with the intent of making them more appealing to younger spectators.

Yet the past couple years has seen the insurer expand into other corners of the collector car world as well. In 2019, it established Hagerty Garage + Social, facilities where collectors can store their prized chariots. That same year saw the start of DriveShare, which allows collectors to rent out their collectible cars. In 2020, Hagerty acquired the California Mille, a longstanding collector car rally.

Then, Hagerty went public in December 2021, merging with Aldel Financial, a SPAC, in a merger valued at $3.13 billion, including a $704 million investment led by State Farm. Hagerty has since grown into a powerhouse, insuring two million cars worldwide.

But most gallingly for Meyers, Hagerty moved into the auction business in 2022, purchasing Broad Arrow Group and hiring three top executives from RM Sotheby’s. Then, Hagerty booted RM Sotheby’s from its prime location at Amelia Island in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom, replacing it with Hagerty’s own Broad Arrow Auctions.

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