Sunday, October 26, 2008
Made-For-TV Story Comes With The Camping World CEO
NASCAR may have just struck pay dirt in more ways than one with the announcement of the new Camping World sponsorship of the Truck Series. This multi-year deal puts a new brand out in the marketplace and brings with it a story that is almost made-for-TV.
The Camping World CEO is named Marcus Lemonis. Rather than being just another corporate figure, Lemonis is one of the most dynamic young executives in American business today. This is just a slice of a Lemonis profile from Chicago Magazine:
It wasn't just any family that adopted Marcus Lemonis from a Beirut orphanage when he was nine months old. His new father and grandfather ran the largest Chevy dealerships in Miami and Tampa. After graduating from Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Lemonis returned to Florida and started selling cars at his grandfather's dealership.
At 22, he made a change. "I decided that if I wanted to be successful, I had to get beat up, learn from others rather than from my family," Lemonis said. He took a job at AutoNation, the country's largest car dealer, and worked his way up to regional manager.
Then he took some advice from a family friend, Lee Iacocca (the former head of Chrysler Corporation), who told him the path to long-term success lay in finding an industry that was ripe for transformation. Lemonis sniffed opportunity in the fragmented recreational vehicle industry. At the time, most RV dealers were small independents who typically sold only one brand and offered poor customer service.
Lemonis poured most of his limited savings into a business plan, inspired by the AutoNation model, for a national chain of RV dealers that sold and serviced multiple brands. His new company, FreedomRoads, began buying up independents and, in less than three years, has become the country's largest RV dealer, selling 18 brands and racking up more than $1.5 billion in revenues.
In June of 2007, FreedomRoads merged with the existing Camping World company to form a "super-power" RV corporation. This past June, only one year after the formation of the new Camping World franchise, Lemonis was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year for a Midwest-based business. Camping World now has over 100 retail locations and over 4,000 employees.
Mr. Lemonis is just 34 years old.
As the CEO, Lemonis has come a very long way from the Beirut orphanage. If there was ever a time when NASCAR needed a shot-in-the-arm and some fresh blood, this is it. To announce a sponsorship deal for the Truck Series in this economic climate goes a very long way toward putting aside a lot of negative rumors that have been circulating.
Friday morning, the Trucks take to the track in Atlanta for practice at 11:30AM on SPEED. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will be the TV team. John Roberts will be along with the news-oriented NASCAR Live at 1PM. Since the entire Truck Series is televised on SPEED and Fox Sports, you can bet that we will all become better acquainted with Lemonis over the next several days.
Krista Voda will host the pre-race show for the truck race Saturday afternoon at 1PM. It would certainly make sense to either have Lemonis on-hand for an interview or make sure that he is interviewed sometime before the show.
His life is just the type of story NASCAR fans love and the way this year is going a little love could go a very long way.
Click here for the Camping World sponsorship announcement at TruckSeries.com.
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