Schoolmates since age 12 and sweethearts since they were teenagers, Larry H. and Gail Miller built an automotive empire encompassing seven Western states, the Utah Jazz, Salt Lake Bees, and a movie theatre chain. Based in Utah, the company sold its existing 69 dealerships, including 13 in Colorado, to the Asbury Automotive Group in December 2021.
After high school graduation in 1962, Larry worked briefly in construction before going to work at an automotive parts store. With his photographic memory, he knew every part in inventory. When he and Gail were married in 1965, Larry asked for – and was refused – a raise. He moved on, eventually landing in 1970 at Colorado’s Stevinson Toyota as parts manager. His phenomenal success led to becoming general manager and then operations manager for Stevinson’s five dealerships.
Chuck Stevinson asked Larry to instruct his sons in the business, which he did; however, while vacationing in Utah in 1979, Larry agreed to purchase his first Toyota dealership, which was just the beginning. His first Colorado purchase was Tom Lyons Hyundai in Boulder, followed by a Hyundai and two Toyota dealerships – owned by Gene Osborn, who Larry knew from when they worked together at Stevinson.
While Gail was home raising the couple’s five children, Larry always kept her informed of the business. As he bought and sold dealerships and other automotive businesses, Gail said she questioned why. The first dealership supported their family, but Larry said he kept going to keep providing jobs and returning resources to the community, which would support their businesses in a virtual cycle. Not surprisingly, dealers wanting to sell sought out Larry because they admired his ethics and acumen.
The Millers’ mission is to use their resources to enrich lives. In that vein, there is also a scholarship fund for diverse, first-generation students at the University of Utah. They viewed their businesses as ways to enhance their community.
Larry died in 2009 from diabetes and Gail realized, as the owner, she had to immerse herself in the business. She also ramped up her philanthropy by focusing on education, health, women, children, and homelessness. Larry’s diabetes led to supporting the University of Utah’s “Driving out Diabetes” initiative.
Both Larry and Gail are in the Utah Automobile Dealers Hall of Fame, and Gail has been recognized by Cox Automotive as its Woman of the Year.