The wacky TV commercials are burned into our memory.
Who could forget Cal Worthington and his “dog” Spot, which was never a dog, but more often a tiger, hippo, or chimpanzee?
The ads were intentionally cheesy. But Worthington — whose empire of auto dealerships once numbered nearly 30 stretching from Alaska to Texas — was laughing all the way to the bank. And the last remnant of that empire is about to wind down.
Worthington died in 2013 at the age of 92, and grandson Nick Worthington, who currently serves as dealer/president of the company, has announced that Worthington Ford in Long Beach has been sold to the Nouri/Shaver Automotive Group.
The deal is set to close Tuesday, Feb. 28 and the dealership’s new name will be BP Ford. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“It was not an easy decision,” Worthington said. “We got offers all the time when we had multiple stores and this was not a decision we made lightly. But the right group came along that seemed like a great fit for the employees.”
All of the dealership’s 130 employees who wish to stay on will be retained, although they will have to reapply for their jobs.
“It’s a new company so they have to do that,” said Worthington, 37, who lives in Newport Beach. “It was important to us that they keep all of the employees with the same benefits. And it’s good for the city of Long Beach, too. This group is very interested in high-volume sales, so the city will see excellent revenue.”
City Councilwoman Daryl Supernaw said Worthington Ford has been a strong economic force in the city, and he’s glad the dealership will remain intact with its current workforce under new ownership.
With the acquisition of Worthington Ford, Costa Mesa-based Nouri/Shaver Automotive Group will own 17 Southern California dealerships in such communities as Van Nuys, Chino Hills, Huntington Beach and Anaheim.
CEO Armina Mgerian, who is also a partner with the company, said Nouri/Shaver was formed in 2015 when Bob Nouri sold his 20 dealerships in Oklahoma to move to Southern California to be with his mother who was ill.
Armina joined the company in 2018 as chief financial officer before being promoted to CEO and Peter Shaver was brought on board in 2019.
“When we started this new company we were looking for dealerships that were in the right areas but weren’t performing well based on sales volume,” Mgerian said. “But this has been a legacy operation. We also acquired Winn Chevrolet in Carson in November.”
Some Cal Worthington history
Cal Worthington’s rise to success was circuitous but as full of adventure as a Hollywood movie.
Born Nov. 27, 1920 in Bly, Oklahoma, Worthington grew up dirt poor as one of nine children. Dropping out of school at the age of 13, he secured his first job working as a water boy on a road construction crew for 15 cents an hour.
At the start of World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Corp and saw combat as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot. He rose to the rank of captain, was awarded the Air Medal five times and also received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Worthington had hoped to become a commercial pilot but couldn’t because didn’t have a college degree. He later sold used cars in front of the post office in Corpus Cristi, Texas, and it was there that he began to perfect the folksy sales techniques that would ultimately catapult him to success.
In 1949 he moved to Huntington Park where he established the Hudson Motor Car Co. That eventually morphed into the Worthington Dealership Group, which saturated late night TV with Cal Worthington commercials.
Worthington’s first franchise car dealership in Los Angeles was founded in1951 and the Ford location in Long Beach was purchased in 1974.
Worthington went on to expand his auto empire to such far-flung locales as Anchorage, Alaska, Reno Nevada, Sacramento and Houston, among others.
Nick Worthington, who had been Worthington Ford’s general manager before taking the helm as dealer/president when Cal Worthington died in 2013, has fond memories of his grandfather
“I would describe him as one of the most charismatic people you’d ever meet,” he said. “When he met people he would immediately connect with them on a one-on-one level.”