Planet Honda / Planet Hyundai
Like many kids from car families, Lee Payne grew up in and around his dad’s dealership, dusting parts bins beginning at age 10. Also like many kids from car families, he considered other careers before joining the family business.
His father, Leo Payne, relocated to Colorado from Michigan in 1963, bought a Pontiac dealership in 1965 and over the years represented more than a dozen brands. Lee’s father was his most influential mentor, giving Lee a framework of integrity and doing the right — not the easy — thing.
Lee joined his father’s dealership in 1982, two weeks after graduating from the University of San Diego, working his way up to become general manager for Leo Payne. When Leo retired and sold the business in 1991, Lee briefly worked in the mortgage business, but missed automotive.
The day he turned 35, Lee, along with his wife and business partner Olga, sat down to plot their future. Fortuitously, Classic Honda in Golden was for sale near Leo Payne’s original location. Owners Jesse Carraway and Barry McCallan generously provided advice and help and the purchase was finalized in early 1996, with four investors and an operating partner.
Lee eventually purchased the entire business, adding a Hyundai franchise in 2000 and taking on Genesis in 2019. He bought Mountain Chevrolet in Glenwood Springs, along with his brother and his wife, and sold his interest to them in 2014.
He attributes his automotive success to anticipating where the industry is going and adapting accordingly, including adopting technology, new pricing strategies and developing a talented staff. Lee was Colorado’s nominee for the 2003 TIME Dealer of the Year award.
He’s proud of helping found the CADA-sponsored Clear the Air Foundation. Also, Lee and Olga are involved in a charity that builds schools in Uganda, and locally with Silver Lining House, which supports homeless youth and young people aging out of foster care.
The Payne dynasty will continue. Lee’s son, Jamie, is the general manager of the Hyundai store and will eventually purchase Lee’s business.