Auto dealership veteran Robert Potamkin dies at 77

Robert Potamkin, co-chair of Potamkin Automotive Group Inc. and a longtime philanthropist, died Nov. 30 at age 77.

The cause was complications from a routine surgical procedure involving a stem cell injection in his shoulder, said his brother Alan Potamkin, with whom he was co-chair of the large dealership group.

Robert Potamkin worked in the auto industry most of his life, according to his obituary. His father, Victor, opened the family’s first Potamkin dealership in Philadelphia in 1946.

“He was my closest friend all of our lives,” Alan Potamkin told Automotive News. “We were partners in everything that we’ve ever done.”

Potamkin Automotive ranks No. 36 on Automotive News’ list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 20,526 new vehicles in 2022. It generated more than $1.3 billion in annual revenue last year at 14 dealerships.

The privately held Miami Lakes, Fla., group has locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas and California, according to its website. The company has 18 franchises but has owned as many as 100 stores during its operations, Alan Potamkin said. It sold a Hyundai-Genesis dealership in Florida this year.

He credited his brother with developing the company’s operating model that allowed it to grow so much.

The brothers “gradually came into the auto industry around 1970, just as the imports were beginning to mushroom and grow,” Alan Potamkin said. “We were able to start more of a chain organization than a hands-on-running-it-yourself organization. Rob and I only had dealerships where we would have an operating partner, and I believe we were the first to really go large with that concept, which many dealers have done since that time. … That was very much Robert’s concept.”

Potamkin and his wife, Lexie, also were philanthropists in many ways. They, with his family, established the Potamkin Prize for Pick’s and Alzheimer’s disease research more than 30 years ago, according to his obituary.

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