Celebrity Auto Group is a high-end auto dealer that caters to big-time athletes and other entertainers. The business was recently ranked #67 in Inc Magazine’s listing of the Top 500 private companies in America (Sep. 2013). While the business is doing very well, with a 3-year growth rate to die for (+4,744%!) and 2012 revenue of $16.2 million, GSB believes Celebrity Auto Group sends a strong anti-green message at the time we need consistently positive green messages (and actions) from the sports world and elsewhere.
Back in June, shortly after LeBron James led the Miami Heat to its 2nd consecutive NBA Championship, GSB posted an “Open Letter To LeBron James” which asked LeBron to become “‘The King’ of the Climate Change fight”. It urged LeBron to go on record with a clear statement saying Climate Change is real, it’s human caused and we have to take serious steps now to stave off the carbon train wreck humanity looks to be headed for.
The tone of the piece was a bit tongue-in-cheek (hey, humor is a necessity when writing about climate change!) and included a mock Q and A between GSB and LBJ which went, in part like this:
LeBron: What can I do?
GSB: In addition to the Climate change is real statement, you can and should:
- Sell your gas guzzling cars in favor of energy efficient rides. Make do with fewer cars. Here’s a statement you can issue: I’ve taken a leadership role on the Heat by walking the walk–working overtime to improve my game. Now I’m walking the walk on climate change. I’ll start by getting rid of my gas guzzling Jeep and Rolls Royce and the rest. Instead, I’m going to drive an all electric car or a hybrid. I’m also going to do with fewer cars. I mean, I don’t need 5 cars. No one needs 5 cars! It sets a bad example if we’re going to do something serious about climate change. We need to be more energy efficient; it’s as simple as a pick and roll!
That faux Q&A was on my mind when I read about Celebrity Auto Group (CAG) in Inc. Magazine’s September, 2013 issue, which listed the 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. Based in Sarasota, FL, CAG (#67 on Inc’s list) was founded by former pro tennis player Conor Delaney in 2006 to, per Inc’s Reshma Memon Yaqub, source and customize high-end, exotic vehicles for A-list athletes and other entertainers. There’s nothing unusual about that on its face–Big-Time athletes and other entertainers like fancy cars–BUT, these excerpts from Delaney’s first-person account stopped me dead in my tracks:
The bulk of my business comes from 125 people, mostly NBA players, who buy 2 to 12 cars a year (my bold) for an average of $150,000 each. Then they do it again the next year.
Think about that–up to 12 cars per year! The message, of course, is “Conspicuous consumption is where it’s at, baby! Consume more, consume big! We’re 4% of the world’s population and 25% of its energy use…and we gotta get that energy use number UP! Carbon footprint–what’s THAT? Fuel efficiency–WHO CARES?” On that last point–fuel efficiency–it seems that CAG’s target market indeed does not care as fuel economy information is not included on the listings of any of the 27 cars currently for sale.
Conor Delaney, Founder of Celebrity Auto Group (Photo Credit: Inc.com)
Now you might think that the general public would feel that buying up to 12 cars per year would be cool and that any negative blow back would be minimal. On the other hand, Delaney says “privacy is huge for athletes” so he “never name(s) clients, tweet about them, or post(s) Instagram pictures of their cars.” Most of this bending-over-backwards for anonymity has to be due to the athletes just wanting to be left alone. But maybe, somewhere in the backs of their minds, the athletes realize what a horrible example they’re setting. Maybe they know their profligacy is grotesque and would look bad. Maybe? The problem is, maybe not.
GSB is going to try to talk to Mr. Delaney to find out if his customers even think about how bad 12 cars per year looks. And we will push LeBron again about that making the “climate change is real” statement–and about selling one or more of his cars.