Jordan, partners hope car dealership scores big Hoops star owns Glen Burnie outlet

December 13, 1995|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

You'll never be able to slam dunk on Glen Burnie's newest car dealer. But can you jam the dealer invoice price down over Michael Jordan?

A group led by the basketball superstar has purchased the old Ritchie Nissan dealership in Glen Burnie -- that's Air Glen Burnie to you. The group plans to renovate a dealership -- whose new president admits it's "not much to look at" -- in a theme befitting the way its new majority owner made his money.

Already, the name has changed to Nissan of Glen Burnie. Soon, a lot more will follow.

The plan is to sink about $1.5 million by this time next year into a new building with baskets, bleachers, a scoreboard and a video wall that plays games when they're on and Jordan highlights when they're not -- except on Saturday mornings, the province of cartoons.

"The kids sit in the bleachers and watch cartoons and the mother and dad buy cars," said Pat Pascarella, Mr. Jordan's partner and president of the company that took over the dealership Nov. 14. "It's great crowd control."

And when the renovation is done, the boss' name goes on the door.

"At that point we'll advertise very heavily as Michael Jordan's Nissan of Glen Burnie," Mr. Pascarella said. "We will play off that just like we did in Durham."

That's Durham, N.C., where Mr. Jordan and Mr. Pascarella, with a third partner, already own a Nissan dealership. They also are negotiating to buy a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in North Carolina, where Mr. Jordan grew up and attended the University of North Carolina, and hope to buy five to seven dealerships overall.

Mr. Pascarella said he hooked up with the basketball player when another North Carolina car dealer sent his son to a basketball clinic where Mr. Jordan appeared. The result was the 1990 purchase of the Nissan dealership in Durham now owned by all three.

"We're selling 200 to 250 cars a month, new and used," in Durham, Mr. Pascarella said, up from 67 cars a month in the year before the Jordan group took over. The dealership now ranks ninth in volume among Nissan stores in Maryland, Washington, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Pascarella said the Glen Burnie dealership now sells about 400 new cars a year, a figure the new owners hope to raise to 1,000 within two years.

Ted Orme, a spokesman for the National Auto Dealers Association, said 400 cars a year is at the low end of what is considered a moderately sized car dealership. Anything more than 750 cars a year made by a single manufacturer is considered large.

"A thousand is a pretty healthy dealership," Mr. Orme said. "Four hundred is about average. Anything less than that is an endangered species."

Mr. Pascarella would not say how much the partners paid former owner Ron Manns for the business.

Mr. Manns could not be reached for comment.

The partners are vague on how they settled on the Glen Burnie dealership.

Their third partner in this deal is Curtis Polk, who works at the firm of the player's Washington-based agent, David Falk.

But Mr. Pascarella said Washington ties were not the key to the deal.

Mr. Polk didn't return calls.

Oh, and don't count on autographs right away. Mr. Jordan's day jobs pay a little too well -- $44 million last year from basketball and endorsements, according to Forbes magazine -- for fans to expect to see much of him around Glen Burnie.

"Michael is not expected to help me sell cars, and I can't assist him with his jump shot," Mr. Pascarella said.

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