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Les Schwab Tires confirms plans to sell company

(Update: Company confirms plans to sell, details)

Retailer's CEO says decision to sell 'was not made lightly'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Les Schwab Tire Centers, one of the most iconic Central Oregon-born companies and the region's third-largest private employer, announced Thursday it has put itself up for sale, a deal that analysts say could fetch up to $3 billion.

The news that the company was considering a sale was first reported Tuesday morning by Bloomberg, quoting sources, quickly followed by a company news release confirming it has put itself on the market:

Les Schwab Tire Centers to be Sold
To Support Future Growth, Success

"BEND, Ore. – DECEMBER 23, 2019 – The nation’s highest-ranked, most customer-focused tire retailer – Les Schwab Tire Centers – announced its intention to sell the company to position it for additional growth and success, Les Schwab CEO Jack Cuniff announced today.

"The private company’s board of directors and its shareholders, who are all relatives of founder Les Schwab, decided to seek new ownership for the company. They made the decision from a position of strength and based on the realities of being a family-owned business with five generations of family members.

“This company is strong,” Cuniff said. “We believe this is the best way to honor Les’ vision for the company and stores and support growth and innovation. Our owners are responsible stewards, and this decision was made after much consideration. It was not made lightly.”

The Schwab family shareholders said in a joint statement:
“Given the complexities of a fifth-generation family business, and managing a company of our size, we are at an important point in the life of Les Schwab Tire Centers. As our family grows and ages, it is increasingly critical to us that ownership remain committed and aligned behind our Grandfather’s vision.

“After careful review and a lot of consideration, we concluded a new ownership group will help ensure future opportunity for our wonderful employees and secure continued success for the company as it grows. We believe a new owner – one with deep experience and resources – will carry forward the Les Schwab vision far into the future.

“Our incredible Tire Centers, and the company and communities we have built together, make us proud. As hard as it is to make the decision to sell this company, we are confident it will offer tremendous opportunity to build on all we have accomplished together for our customers, communities and our employees. We are excited to see what the future will bring.”

"Known for its great value and high-quality products, innovative business practices and outstanding customer service, Les Schwab is a strong brand with deep local ties in the communities it serves. The company has a track record of living the ideals embraced by its founder, who started the company in 1952. Its stores are fixtures in hundreds of communities in 10 states across the West, where they sponsor youth activities and other local events. The company has hired Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. to represent Les Schwab in the sales process, which is expected to take several months.

"About Les Schwab
Les Schwab Tire Centers (www.lesschwab.com) is one of the leading independent tire dealers in the United States, with more than 7,000 employees and more than 492 locations throughout Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. The company has been recognized for its business practices through several awards, including a Milestone award from the Oregon Sustainability Board; Oregon Economic and Community Development Department honors; an Environmental Excellence award from the Association of Washington Business; an Integrity Counts award from the Northern Idaho Better Business Bureau; and The Oregonian 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Top Workplace recognition. In August this year, leading national consumer magazine Consumer Reports rated Les Schwab the No. 1 tire retailer. Also in 2019, J.D. Power awarded Les Schwab No. 1 in Customer Satisfaction with Tire Replacement and Aftermarket General Maintenance. "

The company was founded in 1952 and traces its roots to a single store in Prineville owned by Les Schwab, who died in 2007. He and two siblings grew up in a two-room shack in a logging camp, and both their parents died when Schwab was in his teens.

Schwab began his career selling and distributing The Bulletin before he bought the floundering Prineville tire shop with just one employee, a business that grew to became one of the largest independent tire retailers in the nation, with a well-known focus on customer service and white-shirted workers who ran to help arriving motorists.

Les Schwab Tires has grown over the years to more than 450 locations across 10 states and more than 7,000 employees. It reported some $1.8 billion in annual revenue, as of 2018. A 2008 video tribute to the founder and the company is available to view on YouTube.

Nearly 1,100 Les Schwab employees are based in Central Oregon, most at the company's Bend headquarters or Prineville distribution warehouse, making the firm the third-largest private employer in the region, behind St. Charles Health System and Bright Wood Corp.

Bloomberg said private equity firms have continued to invest in tire- and auto-focused retailers, in part because they have been less disrupted by the rise of e-commerce.

Here is a background sheet the company provided Tuesday:

Les Schwab Tire Centers Background Information

Les Schwab Tire Centers (www.lesschwab.com), headquartered in Bend, Oregon is one of the leading independent tire dealers in the United States. The company has over 7,000 employees in over 490 locations throughout Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Les Schwab founded the company bearing his name in 1952 and quickly established a reputation for outstanding customer service. The first Les Schwab stores were opened in small towns and rural communities with one guiding principle – provide your neighbors with outstanding customer service and high-quality products. This single-minded focus on servicing customers continues today. “Pride in Performance,” a slogan coined by the founder explains each employee’s commitment to providing the best tire value and always delivering world-class customer service.

Les Schwab is recognized for several innovative business practices. It pioneered the concept of offering a supermarket selection of tires in its showrooms – allowing customers the opportunity to inspect and select the exact tires they want. For over 50 years, the company has stood behind its products and services by providing customers with written warranties on tires, brakes and other products.

Other innovations include industry leading employee recruitment and retention programs. Les Schwab believes world-class customer service starts with employees who are powerfully motivated to serve. The company incentivizes employees who put the customer first with opportunities to advance within the organization and provides online and hands-on training to help them hone their skills. Through its long-standing policy to promote from within, every hourly employee has the opportunity to be promoted to store management.

Les Schwab’s employee rewards program exceeds any other in the retail tire industry. The company established its first profit share program in 1954, and today shares approximately half of its profits with employees through generous health benefits, bonuses and retirement programs. The company also offers paid holiday and vacation, disability coverage and life insurance programs.

At Les Schwab, the commitment to service is threefold – service to customers, to employees and to communities. The company is recognized for its volunteer efforts, sponsorships, local environmental and business practices. It has received several awards including: a Milestone award from the Oregon Sustainability Board, Oregon Economic and Community Development Department honors, an Environmental Excellence award from the Association of Washington Business, an Integrity Counts award from the Northern Idaho Better Business Bureau, and The Oregonian Top Workplace recognition every year from 2012-2018.

"The company continues to actively focus on growth and expansion, as well as delivering the best selection, quality and service that customers have come to expect. Recently appointed CEO Jack Cuniff, an 11-year veteran of Les Schwab, says that during this growth the company remains committed to its founding principles: to deliver a legendary level of customer service, while leading in a rapidly changing retail environment.

Les Schwab Tire Centers Fast Facts

Number of Stores:      492 (Sept. 30, 2019)

Retail Sales:             $ 1.8 Billion (September, 2019)

Number of Employees: Over 7,000

Locations: Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

Company Headquarters:    Bend, Oregon
                                                            20900 Cooley Road
                                                  Bend, Oregon 97701

Key Officers: Jack Cuniff, Chief Executive Officer
    John Robertson, President of Store Operations
Corey Parks, Chief Administration Officer
Dale Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer

Recent Awards & Recognition:         Tire Dealer of the Year – Modern Tire Dealer, 2000
Family Business Award – Oregon State University, 2002
Best Passenger-Vehicle and Light-truck Tire Retailer – J.D. Power, 2000-2003
Governor’s Gold Award – Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, 2003
Best Places to Work – Oregon Business Magazine, 2008
Environmental Excellence Award – Association of Washington Business, 2008
Better Business Bureau Integrity Counts! Honoree, Snake River Region – Idaho Better Business Bureau, 2010
Heart of the Community Award – Hands on Greater Portland, 2013
Top Work Places in Oregon and Southwest Washington – Oregonian, 2012-2018
People’s Choice Award – The Fresno Bee, 2018
People’s Choice Award – Tri-City Herald, 2018
Oregon Ethics in Business Award – Rotary Club of Portland, 2018
#1 Ranked Tire Retailer – Consumer Reports, 2019

Digital Channels: 
Website: lesschwab.com
Facebook: facebook.com/lesschwab
Twitter: twitter.com/LesSchwab
YouTube: youtube.com/user/LesSchwabTireCenters
Instagram: instagram.com/lesschwabtire

Bend / Central Oregon / Top Stories

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Comments

49 Comments

  1. If sold the first thing that will happen is the company’s Bend headquarters and Prineville distribution warehouse will no longer be in Central Oregon therefore harming the local economy.

      1. Why shouldn’t they sell? They built a business and now cashing in. Same as 10 Barrels and I remember people whinging about that too. Todd Taylor just sold TNW for $100 million. Same thing. Time to take it easy and enjoy those fat stacks.

  2. I had to laugh at the comment about Les being proud of them selling the company.
    I really don’t think this is about what’s best for the company long term, I think
    it’s about the lure of a lot of money for relatives who were handed a very successful
    company that they didn’t work and sacrifice to build…
    This happens a lot when relatives are basically handed a successful business or inherit
    a lot of money. Les worked his butt off, and sacrificed for many years to get the company
    where it is today, and I have a feeling he is rolling over in his grave knowing that the
    relatives he entrusted to take care of his business are more concerned about the money
    and don’t want to put out the effort required to run the company… Maybe I’m wrong in this case, but I’ve seen it quite a few times over the years.
    ,

    1. Maybe they’re tired of the state of kate and her crap. They see the writing on the wall and are gonna get while the gettin’s good I think. Somebody out of state will buy up and keep the hq elsewhere

    2. I’ll say this I worked there for many years and the family is now older and has grown family now as well and for them it’s time. Les isn’t rolling over he’s proud of the girls as they’ve done well stewarding the company and Les would be amazed that his company had grown to almost 500 stores. Growth comes with growing pains as with any business. Is it sad ? Absolutely LS Is a legacy and he was the kindest man and I have the fondest memories of him coming to the office . For those of you that haven’t read his book I urge you to it may explain a lot. I would hope this community would wish them well and Thank them for the half a century of the best customer service and products.

    3. maybe Les’s family would like to think Les would be proud of them for the effort they put forward trying to fill his shoes since his decline and his passing. they’ve pretty much been running the show for Les since the late 80s and have taken shwabs from a few million dollar annual biz to a billion dollar annual biz. Les didn’t work his butt off and sacrifice for a bigger better tire store, he gave his all for his family and community. if his family is happy with it and Prineville isn’t hurt by it, I don’t think he’d mind. if anyone would understand nothing lasts forever, it would be a guy who started off selling retreads

  3. its sad but I can see it, most the family businesses that have gotten really big have sold out. they should give the employees first chance to buy it, I think that would make Les the happiest about the sale.

  4. It use to be the only way to get hired at Schwabs was if someone retired or died, and you
    knew someone, and there were never help wanted signs. It wasn’t long after Les died that
    help wanted signs started showing up in front of the stores. That was a true indicator of how
    things had changed very quickly, and not for the best… Les truly valued his employees and took very good care of them, but when the relatives got a hold of it, they could care less,
    and probably thought good wages and bonuses were money that could go into their pocket.
    It’s really sad actually…

  5. Maybe the new owners won’t allow their employees to lie and tell people they need brakes when they really don’t, or new shocks, tires, alignments, and every thing else they lie about

    1. That was something that didn’t happen when Les was still alive, but certainly does now…
      I dealt with Schwabs since the 70’s and never questioned their honesty and integrity,
      until after Les died. I had them try and rip me off once for $800, and once for almost $1200 for work they said needed to be done so they could properly align my Dodge 4×4.
      Fortunately I’ve worked on cars for years, so I know when something is bad, so I asked the guy questions that he had a hard time answering, and I called B.S on it both times,
      and told them what I thought of their deceptive practices… The last time I dealt with them was in 2010, only three years after Les died. These problems aren’t isolated to me. I know quite a few people who have also dealt only with Schwabs for years, and they too have had the same problems, and quit going there.

      1. @Mike 338. Yep, I’ve heard that over and over from my customers. I’ve rarely needed them for anything personally, but they really did develop a bad rep of unneeded upsales after Les passed away. I can’t believe the idea of telling someone they can’t leave the lot because the car they drove there is “too unsafe” is even legal. I still remember running into him in local stores. A real down to earth man.

  6. comments on here are funny. this is the natural evolution of a home grown company like this one.

    maybe it’s just gotten bigger than the family wants to handle at this time, or maybe they are tired and just ready to cash out and relax. whatever – all in all – it’s their choice. i wish them well in their sale and, like others, hope that customer service stays the same in the future state, but only time will tell. i’m sure the family doesn’t take this move lightly and will likely bake in some stipulations into the sale, but who knows.

    and for those who think they know what les would want – well, likely you didn’t know him. and he’s dead. and the best people who know anything are his family. and they may be acting within or outside of his wishes – it’s their right to do whatever they please. who are we, as customers, to tell them what to do?

    free markets people. free markets.

  7. Low quality tires for top prices , bought once and burned them up in under 25,000 miles. Never again for my truck but I do buy tgeir cheap tires for my trailers. I’ll stick with Discount Tire or Costco.

  8. They want to sell the company which is their business and not anyone’s here complaining about it, period! But they should halt the relocation a couple of blocks to 3rd street? That move should have never have been allowed to begin with but our city planners are idiots.

  9. Great to see a successful local company haverst the fruits of their efforts. Congratulations to the owners! Hope the new owenrship continues the solid growth and maintains some of the culture that make Les Schwab successful all these years.

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