The Duncan Banner
The Mike Terry Auto dealerships in Duncan could have new life after weeks of tangled money problems and legal disputes threatened to put them out of business and cost more employees their jobs.
A judge agreed to a sale of the dealerships late Friday afternoon, with Randy Byford — owner of the Byford Buick GMC dealership in Chickasha — as a new investor in line to take over operations. The Banner reported the deal first on its website early Friday evening.
Some of the initial investors would still have a hand in the new ownership groups, but Mike Terry — the man they tried to fire on July 15 — would be out. The new owner arrangements, with Byford set to become day-to-day manager of operations, still need approval by GM and Chrysler.
Byford has family ties to Stephens County and has owned the Byford Buick GMC dealership in Chickasha since 2007. He told The Banner Friday it would be inappropriate to comment until later.
Stephens County District Judge Joe Enos said in his Friday order that unless assets were sold on an emergency basis without “traditional market efforts,” it was likely Mike Terry Chevrolet-Buick-GMC on U.S. Highway 81 and Mike Terry Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram at the Duncan/Lawton Y would shut down.
Some employees already had been laid off, although the precise number is unclear, and a financial receiver trying to save the dealerships said he couldn’t meet expenses, including payments to lenders.
The newly proposed ownership group includes Byford and David Le Norman or his Oklahoma City-based oil and gas exploration company - Le Norman Properties, LLC - as well as some initial investors without Terry.
The deal assumes the new groups take over or pay a floor line of credit of about $16 million and arrange to pay a loan of $4.2 million, or get Terry released as guarantor of that loan. Outstanding liens also must be paid.
Terry had said in court it had been his lifelong dream to own a dealership, but his stint in Duncan crashed in just nine months, with a bitter ownership feud spilling into court.
Friday’s order said Terry and the other investors had settled their dispute and Terry had severed his financial interests and claims in the dealerships.
Terry and five other partners from Edmond purchased the dealerships last December from Larry Battison and the Battison Auto Group, which had owned and operated them for years.
The five others — Roger Ely, Vahid Salalati, Greg Luster, Ty Hartwig and Richrad Horton — tried to oust Terry on July 15. They claimed he had mismanaged finances to a point of chaos and spent tens of thousands of dealership dollars on trips and personal items without permission.
They said those expenses included $75,275 for a down payment on a house in Duncan, more than $20,000 for new bedroom and dining room furniture and about $10,000 for Terry and his wife to go to the Emmy Awards.
They also said Terry prepared and signed a document about a week before the Aug. 12 court hearing - but backdated to last January - purporting to oust the others from a board of managers.
Terry, who initially got a temporary restraining order to prevent his ouster, said all the personal expenses were eventually “reconciled” and besides, he had put a lot of his own money into the business upfront.
He claimed he had majority ownership and could not be fired and said business had improved significantly under his tenure.
But Enos dissolved his restraining order and appointed Michael Deeba as a receiver to take over assets and operations in hopes of saving the dealerships. Saving them, Enos said, was important for employees and their families and the overall community.
After taking over, Deeba got permission from Enos to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars from the original investors to keep the dealerships afloat. He had hoped then to sell the dealership assets through a competitive bidding process and an auction set for this Monday.
But Deeba notified the court late Thursday that doing so was not possible.
He said “the accounting records of the companies were in such disarray that no meaningful financial information” could be given to interested parties in a competitive bidding process, according to court records.
Enos said an emergency sale was necessary in part because Ally Financial Inc., the secured lender, had served notice of default and Deeba could not cure that.
He said Deeba could not pay all current operating expenses and that situation would continue, and without a sale, the dealerships likely would stop operations, hurting employees and creditors.
The order said assets would remain under Deeba’s control and not be transferred to the new ownership groups until approval by GM and Chrysler.
It said Byford will be immediately available to help Deeba in operating the dealerships and manage assets, pending GM and Chrysler approval.
Deeba was given authority to execute the judge’s order but the court will retain jurisdiction over any matters or disputes that arise from it.