Weir is the latest big name capture for motoring legend Arnold Clark

ARNOLD Clark, Europe’s largest privately-owned motor group, yesterday swooped on smaller rival John R Weir in what is believed to have been a multi-million pound deal.

All 321 workers at Weir’s 11 showrooms will transfer to Glasgow-based Arnold Clark, which already has 145 of its own dealerships and more than 8,000 staff.

Acquiring the business marks Arnold Clark’s first move into the Mercedes-Benz market, taking on outlets in Aberdeen, Dundee, Grangemouth, Inverness and Perth.

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Both parties remained tight-lipped about the price that was paid for Weir, which also sells cars under the Jeep, Kia and Smart marques.

Arnold Clark said that it plans to carry on using the John R Weir brand name.

John Weir, managing director and principal shareholder at the eponymous firm, said: “The board reviewed a range of options and determined the sale was best for the business, its customers and its staff.

“I am personally delighted that we have been able to attract a buyer of the calibre and size of Arnold Clark, which I am confident will grow the business further as it enters this new chapter in its development.”

Eddie Hawthorne, Arnold Clark’s managing director, added: “The John R Weir Group is synonymous with high standards of quality and customer service and we are proud to be welcoming the whole John R Weir Group team into the Arnold Clark family. We are also proud to be adding Mercedes-Benz to the portfolio of manufacturers we represent and we are confident that together we will make a great success of this acquisition.”

The deal brings together two of the biggest brands in the Scottish motor trade and two of the best-known names in the Scottish business community.

Arnold Clark founded his business in the 1960s and has grown turnover to more than £2 billion a year. He still serves as chairman and chief executive, and posted a slide in pre-tax profits to £50.5m in 2010 from £73.9m in 2009 following the end of the UK government’s scrappage scheme, according to the most recent accounts filed at Companies House.

Clark’s has always been acquisition-hungry, with purchases in recent years having included Delmore Cars in Inverness.

Grangemouth-based John R Weir opened its first showroom in 1992. Its turnover edged up 0.6 per cent in the year to 31 October to £92.1m, although pre-tax profits fell to £249,000 from £424,000.

The business’ total assets less its liabilities stood at £3.9m at the end of October last year, although the value of the sale is likely to have been higher once the value of the John R Weir brand was taken into account.

Arnold Clark’s latest acquisition is the latest in a string of consolidation deals within Scotland’s every-busy motor trade.

Peter Vardy – son of legendary car salesman Reg – has bought a number of showrooms from John Martin in recent years, while Aim-quoted Vertu – which trades under the Macklin Motors brand in Scotland – has snapped up dealerships from Glasgow-based Shields.