Les Schwab sale on hold over COVID concerns

The sale of Les Schwab Tires is on hold because the coronavirus has hampered potential buyers from being able to visit shops and meet with employees, according to the company’s CMO.

“Due to the coronavirus concerns and travel concerns that have affected us all, we decided back in March it would be best to pause the sale process,” said Dale Thompson, Chief Marketing Officer for the Bend-based business. “And pause is the right word. The intent is to proceed again when conditions permit.”

The company announced in December they were seeking a buyer after being a family-run business for nearly 70 years.

“We continue to believe that new ownership for Les Schwab Tires is the best way to support growth and innovation, and all the opportunities those create for our employees and communities,” Thompson said.

He said there was no timetable on returning to the sale process, but said nothing will change within the company in the meantime.

“Our stores will remain open and we’ll serve customers like we always have,” he said.

Bloomberg reported the Bend-based company could be sold for at least $3 billion.

“There was interest (before the pause) and we believe it will remain of high interest because of the company,” he said. “It’s an attractive company because of the years of customer service and employee support.”

The company, founded in 1952, traces its roots to a single store in Central Oregon owned by Schwab, who died in 2007. Schwab’s wealth was self-made: He and two siblings grew up in a two-room shack in a logging camp, and both their parents died when Schwab was a teenager, according to the Oregonian. He started his career selling and distributing newspapers before switching to retailing by buying a floundering Prineville tire shop with just one employee.

Schwab, dubbed the tire king, started transferring ownership of the business to his descendants in 1974, according to the Oregonian, which cited a memoir.

Les Schwab Tire Centers has $1.8 billion in annual revenue, according to a November 2018 interview with The Bulletin.

The retailer has more than 450 locations across 10 states, including Washington, Oregon and California.

It previously entertained suitors including KKR & Co. and French tire magnate Francois Michelin, the Oregonian reported in 2006.

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