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BIG BUS DEAL: Tampa Bay Limo Operator Buys Motorcoach Fleet

Posted on July 28, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

ABOUT PHOTO: Florida operator Ken Lucci with one of his new MCI motorcoaches.

TOM MAZZA BROKERS: Ken Lucci, who bought the late Julie Herring’s limousine company two years ago, becomes one of the largest operators in the region with his purchase of Allstar Limousine.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — AMBASSADOR LIMOUSINE AND SEDAN INC. closed a deal Monday to buy ALLSTAR LIMOUSINE & TRANSPORTATION SERVICES of Tampa, including six 55-passenger MCI motorcoaches.

The acquisition makes Clearwater-based Ambassador Limousine the largest diversified fleet in the Tampa Bay region, with a total of 38 vehicles ranging from sedans, to buses, to Rolls Royces. It can now provide transportation service for big groups with company-owned buses.

The deal, arranged and brokered by industry consultant Tom Mazza, is valued at an estimated $1.6 million, said Kenneth J. Lucci, CEO and president of Ambassador Limousine. In the deal, Lucci bought the buses only, the company books, and client lists of Allstar.

Allstar Limousine, founded in 1985, has been Tampa Bay’s oldest operating full service transportation brand with a fleet ranging from sedans to motorcoaches.

Lucci founded Ambassador in 2007, and one year later made his first acquisition when he bought Julie’s Limousines of Tampa, the company of the late Julie Herring. Herring, a longtime Tampa Bay operator, served as a board director of the National Limousine Association until she died of cancer in 2008.

Lucci plans to keep the respective web sites and phone numbers of Ambassador, Julie’s, and Allstar, but will consolidate all companies by the end of the year and run all vehicles under the Ambassador brand.

Ambassador’s market shares break down about 35-40% corporate, 33% resort, and about a fourth retail and wedding. It also operates a location at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, one of the region’s top luxury hotels and spas.

Other high profile Ambassador clients include the Sandpearl Resort, Hilton Carillon Hotel, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the acquisition of Allstar, estimated annual revenues for Ambassador are projected at $3.3 million for 2010, up from $2.2 million in 2009 following the acquisition of Julie’s Limousine a year earlier, and up from $1.2 million in revenues for 2008.

Ambassador will increase its staff from 36 to 43 employees, with seven bus chauffeurs and administrative employees being brought over from Allstar, Lucci said. Although Florida is a right-to-work state with many operators using independent contract chauffeurs, Ambassador is an employee-only company, Lucci said.

“The independent operator model is popular in Florida but you can’t get the level of service you need if they are not employees,” Mazza said. “You can’t tell them what to do.”

The Ambassador fleet consists of nine sedans, five SUVs, three 10-pack stretch limousines, three 6-pack stretch limousines, one Cadillac Escalade stretch limousine, another stretch limousine, three Mercedes-Benz limousine mini-coaches, three mini-buses, one limousine bus, six motorcoaches, and three Rolls-Royce sedans.

Lucci said the fleet qualifies his company as the largest diverse luxury fleet in the region ranked by public permits, excluding those chauffeured operations that are mostly sedan or bus fleets.

The negotiations on the deal took about six weeks, Lucci said. “I got a call from one of the owners who wanted to have lunch. I didn’t know why or what it was about, but he introduced me to the other owner and we started a dialogue. . . They knew we had just opened a branch at one of the resorts and started using one of their buses.”

Added Mazza, “The Allstar brand was one of most recognized in that market and suffered during the downturn. We were in a position where we could see growth with the added business of Julie’s that you wouldn’t see in a stand alone company.”

“They saw we had bought Julie’s and were capable of buying a company and doing a full consolidation,” Lucci added, and “operating the business and making it grow after the fact.”

Ambassador emphasizes concierge-level hospitality service in its transportation, Lucci said. “One of the reasons we’ve gone from two to 38 vehicles and being a leader in the marketplace is because we are an employee-based company and because of of the training methods we use.” He added that chauffeurs carry “pledge cards” in their pockets that remind them of the company’s core service values.

[SEE SMOOTH OPERATOR PROFILE OF KEN LUCCI IN THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE OF LCT MAGAZINE]

— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

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