Safelite Sold: Gary Lubner Chats About What's Next

By Les Shaver

Just hours after Belron announced the acquisition of Safelite, the Columbus, Ohio, based manufacturer and retailer of auto glass, Belron Chief Executive Officer Gary Lubner, talked with His message: Things could get better for the industry after his company's purchase of Safelite, the largest auto glass retailer in the United States.

"By doing this acquisition, we're hoping were going to be able to improve industry relationships," Lubner said. "Really, this should be seen as good news for the entire industry."

Lubner insists London-based Belron will seek a fair price for its auto glass services. If its true, that should be welcome news to long-suffering shops that do good work, but get pinched at the margins.

"I'm concerned at how quality and service is not rewarded in terms of price," Lubner said. "Those are the sort of things that I'm hoping that will uplift the entire industry. Good service deserves a fair price."

Asking for a fair price and getting one are two different things though.

"I don't have any magic wands," Lubner said. "We're aware of the issues. We are going to whatever we can to move the business on."

As things forward, Belron will retain Safelite's management team. It will, however, add Rich Harrison, it's chief executive officer, to Safelite's operating committee.

"From everything that I've seen, Safelite is doing a great job," Lubner said. "Since coming out of Chapter 11, the business has done very well and is very attractive."

The irony is that just seven years ago Belron sold its minority ownership in Safelite.

"Belron is not interested in owning minority interests in any business," Lubner said. "This is a 100 percent acquisition."

But as Belron scooped up regional auto glass companies in 2005, rumors began to float that it had its eye on Safelite. The two companies plotted the long-rumored acquisition for a couple of months. But only yesterday was it finalized.

"It's a strong business," Lubner said. "They've been growing profitably over the past couple of years. It has a good bunch of people working for it and a good leadership team and very good relationships with insurance companies, fleet companies, and commercial companies and across the spectrum. It met our criteria for a good acquisition."

If the situation is right, Lubner says more acquisitions could follow.

"There are a number of people who have spoken to us over the past few years and now is no different than any other time," Lubner said. "We're keeping our options open."