Saban and Mercedes: A Winning Pair?

hunter fordWhat is the big deal about Nick Saban wanting to be a partner in a Mercedes car dealership? As the “silly season” is just underway, where sports talk show fodder gets passed around the airwaves, a Birmingham radio show is making fun of the situation with fake commercials.

Paul Finebaum is using his new platform to ponder whether this could compromise Saban’s relationship with Ford Motor Company. Saban, as does Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, pitches the Ford F-150 pickup trucks on TV commercials. I believe that’s more of a contractual relationship with Ford and Alabama and Auburn. The schools agree to provide their respective coaches for ads.

Saban has reportedly said that owning a car dealership has always been one of his life ambitions. And what is wrong with that? I’d like to own a car dealership. You get to test drive a lot of cool cars. If you can sell enough, you make a lot of money. What is not to like? Saban grew up washing cars at his dad’s service station. He loves cars. I do too. I don’t get why there is such a reaction to this.

Saban is not unlike any other rich guy who has rich friends. He has got money to play with, and why not play with cool toys like Mercedes automobiles?

Excellence. What other automotive brand could be associated with the Saban name?

Excellence. What other automotive brand could be associated with the Saban name?

Perhaps it is news because there is a lawsuit involved. Saban’s proposed dealership would be in Irondale, and there is a dealership in Hoover that sells Mercedes vehicles, among other makes. The lawsuit alleges that Saban’s dealership would violate a business competition law that does not allow two dealers to sell the same brand of new autos within a certain range of each other.

Coach Saban is not a defendant or plaintiff in the lawsuit, but it has been reported that he has been asked to provide evidence and give testimony.

Maybe it is an interesting story because Saban already gets paid a gazillion dollars to coach football. But, again, rich people with rich friends find interesting hobbies…right?

College football coaches have been doing stuff like this forever. In days gone by, college football coaches at major schools had fairly modest salaries. Good ones, like Paul “Bear” Bryant, for instance, made their “real money” on outside business ventures. Pat Dye had some ties to Colonial Bank. Malzahn should invest in Waffle House. But I digress.

Let me direct you to a few select quotes and passages from Keith Dunnavant’s excellent book, Coach: The Life of Paul “Bear” Bryant.

“In addition to being a great football coach, the Bear was a very astute businessman.”

“By the time he returned to Alabama as athletic director and head football coach in 1958, Bryant was already a wealthy man.”

At A&M Bear got a cut of the ticket sales and was staked by wealthy Aggies in oil and gas ventures.

At Alabama, Bear made about $40,000 in salary in the early 1970s, according to the book. Here’s a passage that explains where the real money came from.

“During his days at Alabama, he became a partner in the giant Ziegler’s meat-packing company, a large shareholder in the Alfa insurance company, and the owner of a box company, a Volkswagen dealership, and large tracts of commercial and residential real estate throughout the state. He served on the boards of various banks and businesses. He even started a company with his friend Sonny Werblin to manufacture his own line of houndstooth hats. Every man in Alabama had to have a Bear Bryant hat.”

Saban doesn’t need the extra money, because his salary is plenty stout enough to keep his bank account full. But it looks like Saban is becoming more like the Bear, on and off the field, every day. And what’s wrong with that? ROLL TIDE!