AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson to step down at yearend

The head of the nation's largest auto retailer, AutoNation, will step down at the end of the year, the company said Wednesday.

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Mike Jackson, who is 69, will transition to the role of executive chairman next year after signing a contract extension through 2021. He has been the chief executive of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company since 1999.

“The company is ready for its next chapter with a strong foundation, a coast to coast brand, a comprehensive brand extension strategy, and a transformational digital consumer car buying experience,” Jackson, who was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in July, said in a statement.

Jackson began his career in the auto industry as a technician at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Cherry Hill, New Jersey after graduating college in 1971 with a degree in political science. He went on to serve as president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA before H. Wayne Huizenga, AutoNation’s founder, tapped him to lead the company. Jackson is also a chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Over the course of his 19-year tenure, AutoNation has become the largest auto retailer for as many years and has sold more than 11 million vehicles, serviced more than 40 million customer vehicles and raised nearly $15 million for national cancer-related charities.

The company said it hired executive search and leadership advisory firm Spencer Stuart to help it find a successor.

Besides founding AutoNation, which has more than 325 locations, in 1996, Huizenga also created Blockbuster Video and was a co-owner of the Miami Dolphins football team and the Florida Marlins baseball team.

The auto retailer’s stock was down 1 percent in premarket trade, and has lost more than 15 percent since the beginning of the year.