Private and public school transportation is a potential niche market operators may consider since it can drive business and brand growth.
Classique Limousines Worldwide of Orange, owned by Kevin Illingworth, closed a deal Jan. 1 to buy Showcase Limousines, a 35-year-old company in Riverside, Calif. The straight cash-out asset deal for vehicles, book of business, brand, and a leased building was brokered by Santa Rosa-based industry attorney Patrick O’Brien, who also owns a limousine company in Panama.
Classique acquired Showcase’s six vehicles, bringing the total fleet to 22 vehicles with a team of 25 chauffeurs. Illingworth estimates the combined operations will gross about $3.5 million this year. The company also took over the lease on Showcase’s building in Riverside, where it will base vehicles and employees. Showcase owner Nanette Tenerelli will work as the Classique’s operations manager at her old offices. The Showcase name and brand will be absorbed into Classique.
For Classique, founded in 1990, the purchase enables it to shift from a 70%/30% corporate/retail mix to a 50%/50% one, given that Showcase ran mostly stretch limousines and sedans for a majority retail client mix, Illingworth said. At the same time, he’s found the Inland Empire remains underserved in corporate chauffeured transportation and looks forward to gaining a deeper clientele in that segment.
The Inland Empire is home to vast distribution warehouse complexes and such companies as Amazon and Cisco, along with big name homebuilders. Its affordable housing makes it appealing as a suburban region for the more congested Los Angeles and Orange counties to the west.
That presents traffic challenges, given the heavy commuter flow on the freeways. By having an operation in the Riverside area, Classique will no longer have to run vehicles out of its headquarters in Orange, Illingworth said. “I needed Showcase because I’ve got chauffeurs out there who serve corporate accounts, and now they don’t need to drive in and out of Orange County.”
Illingworth also plans to pursue more wine tour business in the Temecula area in southern Riverside County and the Palm Springs market further to the east, which includes the annual Coachella Music Festival.
Classique’s lead fleet vehicles include the Lincoln Continental sedan, Cadillac XTS sedans, Chevrolet Suburbans, a Tiffany Sprinter limo van, and two Grech GM38 Freightliner minibuses.
The deal came about after Tenerelli approached Illingworth about buying her company. The two operators have been longtime industry friends and colleagues. “We had been friends for many years. She was just exhausted by the daily demands of being a sole operator, and as a grandmother wanted to spend more time with her family.”
In related personnel news, Classique on Jan. 13 welcomed back Caroline Kent, its Orange-based general manager and operations manager, after a four-month illness.
Illingworth recently became the 1st vice president of the Greater California Livery Association after leading it as president since January 2014. He also represents the Western region as a board director for the National Limousine Association.
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