Farewell Jim "the Courtesy Man" Moran

By: Gertrude

The triumph of Toyota into becoming the world's number 1 largest automaker was tainted with sadness with the departure of one of the legendary car promoter who helped it to become the nation's best-selling import. Jim Moran died last Tuesday at the age of 88.

Jim Moran is the billionaire owner and founder of JM Family Enterprises of Deerfield Beach. Moran also presides over an automotive empire that ranks among the biggest private companies in the country. Despite the various health problems that he is facing, he remained to have an active participation in the business until his death. Last Friday before Moran's death he called Art Hendrickson Sr., who owns a Toyota dealership in Coconut Creek. Hendrickson said, ''He was asking me about the sales of the new truck, the Tundra". Hendrickson also said that he asked Mr. Moran if there is anything that he could do for him but the old man said was ``Just take good care of yourself.''

The story of Moran was one of those Horatio Alger-type figures whose rags to riches story have concluded in the building of the world's largest Toyota distributor. Moran was also the very first car dealer that advertises cars on television. The billionaire from Fort Lauderdale H. Wayne Huizenga who consulted with Moran in 1996 about the launching of a chain of used-car superstores has remembered the old man as the "Courtesy Man". Huizenga said, "That tag line fit him so well and epitomized the Jim Moran that I knew. Jim was a gifted entrepreneur, but more importantly, he was a wonderful person."

The path to success of Moran was loaded with controversies. First he was accused of tax evasion and then discriminatory practices but despite all that he has found a way to show his caring side when he launched programs that would benefit troubled youths and recognizes the achievements of African-Americans.

Moran's climb to success...
Jim Moran was born in Chicago's Near North Side in 1918. His venture into the automotive industry started in 1939 when he borrowed $360 to buy a Sinclair gas station. He also ventures into selling used cars at the station. He later on became the top Hudson dealer and the top Ford dealer. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1961.

At the height of his success, Moran, 46 at the time was told by a doctor that he had cancer and had less than a year to live. After the learning the horrible news Moran decided to move to South Florida in 1966 where he intends to spend his final days in retirement.

According to Alberto IbargÃ?en, the former Miami Herald publisher who served on the board of the Florida Philharmonic with Moran, ''As he put it, about three or four years later, he noticed he hadn't died." So Moran returned to the showroom, opening a Pontiac dealership in Homestead.

Two years later Moran met Toyta's founder which changes Moran's career. He was recruited to distribute Toyotas, being the man that he is, Moran first wanted to take a Toyota out for a test drive, according to IbargÃ?en, now president and chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. ''He took it on the road, slammed it reverse and it didn't break,''--- that was enough to convince Moran that the Toyota was well made, IbargÃ?en said.

After that fateful day, JM Family's flagship subsidiary in Southeast Toyota Distributors became the exclusive supplier of Toyota products which include vehicles as well as auto and range of in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Moran is also credited for making many Toyota dealers millionaires.

Hendrickson said, ''I personally believe Toyota wouldn't be where it is today without Jim Moran,''. The death of Moran came the same day as the news stating that Toyota had surpassed General Motors in car and truck sales in the first quarter.

Moran's other automotive businesses, including World Omni Financial Corp. together with the finance and insurance company JM&A Group, thrived.

According to Moran's friend Lewis Cohen, president of Irving Berlin Men's Shop in Hollywood, where Moran shopped, he considered the auto magnate ``a great gentleman of this era. One time he sent all the wives of his executives to New York with paid hotel bills and credit cards to show his appreciation for the guys who were doing business for him."

Fame, Fortune, Recognitions...
In the year 2005, Moran was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, joining the line of industry icons such as Henry Ford, Lee Iacocca, and Thomas Edison. Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of Fort Lauderdale's AutoNation, said Moran will be remembered for his ``ability to create something that didn't exist and to build it into something far beyond anything anyone could ever imagine.''

Pat Moran, daughter of Jim Moran, retired as JM Family's chairman after six years. She had succeeded her father at the control of JM Family, which recorded revenue of $11.1 billion in 2006 and employs about 4,500 people. JM Family has appeared for nine years straight on Fortune magazine's list of 100 best companies to work for.

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