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AMN Executive Interview With Brent Windom, President And CEO, Auto Plus

Following the June acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Uni-Select USA Inc. and Beck/Arnley Worldparts by Icahn Enterprises, Brent Windom – a longtime Uni-Select USA employee – was tapped to serve as president and CEO of the business, now called Auto Plus. Windom and Auto Plus are now embarking on an aggressive growth strategy based on its strong history of technology investments and major market acquisitions. Windom recently sat down with Counterman’s sister publication aftermarketNews to provide readers with an update on the business and where it’s headed.

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Following the June acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Uni-Select USA Inc. and Beck/Arnley Worldparts by Icahn Enterprises, Brent Windom – a longtime Uni-Select USA employee – was tapped to serve as president and CEO of the business, now called Auto Plus. The acquisition included 38 distribution centers and satellite locations, 240 corporately owned jobber stores and more than 3,500 employees in the United States.

No stranger to successful growth strategies in his long career, Windom has been part of three major acquisitions; in each case, joining the team of the acquiring company. Windom began his career overseeing sales of more than $25 million with Downey Automotive, which was sold to AI Automotive in 1985. He was executive vice president at AI Automotive for nine years, until its sale to MAWDI. He served as vice president of marketing and merchandising for MAWDI from 1994 to 2005, when it was sold to Uni-Select. He then became senior vice president, sales and marketing, for Uni-Select.

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Windom and Auto Plus are now embarking on an aggressive growth strategy based on its strong history of technology investments and major market acquisitions. Windom recently sat down with AMN to provide readers with an update on the business and where it’s headed.

Parent company Uni-Select Inc. completed the sale of its U.S. distribution operations, along with Beck/Arnley in early June. The business was sold to Icahn Enterprises, which also is the largest shareholder in Federal-Mogul Corp. Can you give us a breakdown of what role Icahn Enterprises and Federal-Mogul will play in Auto Plus?

Icahn Enterprises L.P. (IEP) announced June 1 that it had completed the acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Uni-Select USA Inc. and Beck/Arnley Worldparts Inc., comprising the U.S. automotive parts distribution business of Uni-Select Inc. The acquisition included 38 distribution centers and satellite locations, 240 corporate-owned jobber stores and over 3,500 employees.

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Auto Plus will be operated independently from Federal-Mogul Holdings Corp., a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises and a leading global supplier of automotive products and services. All transactions between the two companies will be conducted on an arms-length basis and approved by the independent directors of each company.

What do you expect to change and what do you expect to remain the same, now that Icahn Enterprises owns the company?

Auto Plus is a strong and profitable company with a tradition of delivering the right quality products and services in a timely fashion to our customers. As a new company, we plan to stay true to our core values while aggressively becoming one of our industry’s top automotive aftermarket firms.

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We have added several new executive positions for functions that were previously handled by our former parent company, Uni-Select, as well as others. The talented people we have hired into these positions will help us achieve our business objectives. You will hear more on these executive team appointments as they occur.

One of the many reasons Icahn Enterprises chose to invest in Auto Plus was our fast-paced growth strategy, both organic and through acquisitions, gaining a greater share of the market. Consolidation is happening in every corner of the automotive sector. You will see us aggressively executing our growth strategy.

We expect the market for automotive aftermarket products to grow significantly over the next five years. In order to gain market share, and stay competitive and profitable, we will look at all our company operations, leveraging our strengths to create greater value at every customer touch point. We feel we have the competitive edge and we intend to keep it.

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Now, with new ownership in place and a new executive team, our growth plans will be significantly accelerated.

Will the company maintain the Uni-Select branding?

Last October (2014) at AAPEX, we rolled out the Auto Plus name and brand campaign. Under IEH Auto Parts (a subsidiary of Icahn Enterprises), the Auto Plus name remains the same. However, a new logo that better reflects the positioning of the company has been developed. Later this year, and throughout 2016, we will hold a series of regional meetings with our customers to roll out our newer, more robust brand program.

What do you have planned to market and promote the business now that it is under new ownership?

Our new collaboration models with our customers and manufacturers, and our new technologies in place, all strengthen our company position. You will see us taking a higher profile position as we drive revenue and success through our supply chain with these tools. More specifics will be detailed in the brand rollout that we will kick off at APPEX this year.

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What does Auto Plus’ U.S. footprint look like today? Where do you expect it to be 2-3 years from now? Do you expect to grow the footprint?

We have a very specific and aggressive growth strategy in place and the resources to accomplish our goals.

Our geographic coverage is national but has been most concentrated on the East Coast, Midwest and Southern United States. You will see that quickly change as we:

  • Build through acquisition in major U.S. markets
  • Strengthen our existing footprint through acquisition
  • Expand our hub and spoke distribution model to serve new metro areas

Which competitors are you more concerned about – traditional distributors, big box or e-tailers? Why?

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We are on a path to being a dominant company in this industry. Our ability to create a customer responsive distribution network is key our success.

Every competitor brings a set of challenges. Larger-scaled organizations bring competitive leverage and regional independents are nimble and very market centric. Our organization will be structured to compete on both fronts to meet and exceed market expectations.

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