Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

This Car Dealership Executive Raked in $26.5 Million Last Year

  • Sonic Auto's Dyke gets special $22.9 million retention grant
  • Total pay is about seven times more than CEO Bryan Scott Smith

Car dealer Sonic Automotive Inc. has one executive it doesn’t want driving off the lot.

Jeff Dyke, the company’s executive vice president of operations, was awarded $26.5 million in total compensation last year, bolstered by a retention grant, Sonic’s proxy filing shows. That’s almost seven times more than Chief Executive Officer Bryan Scott Smith.

The $22.9 million stock grant, which vests over 15 years, was intended to "encourage him to continue his employment," according to the March 8 filing. Dyke joined Sonic in 2005 from AutoNation Inc.

"Jeff Dyke is the one steering day-to-day operations," Rick Nelson, an analyst with Stephens Inc., said in an e-mail. "The company is pursuing a number of new strategies and he was key to the development of those strategies as well as overseeing execution in the field." 

Danny Wieland, a spokesman for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Sonic, declined to comment beyond the filing.

Sonic, which operates about 100 dealerships in 14 states, has been revamping operations with the goal of getting buyers in and out of showrooms in under 45 minutes, assisted by salesmen with iPads, according to its website. It sells cars under brands from Acura and BMW to Chevrolet and Volvo.

When Dyke left AutoNation to join Sonic, he signed on to a smaller competitor that got its start as a family business.

AutoNation had more than twice the revenue and five times the net income of Sonic last year. AutoNation’s market value is $5.31 billion versus $898 million for Sonic. AutoNation paid Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson $10.6 million in 2014, according to the company’s most recent pay filing.

In 2015, Sonic shares fell 16 percent. AutoNation declined 1.2 percent.

Dyke’s grant comes with some caveats. It only pays if Sonic hits certain financial targets. He also signed a non-compete agreement to receive the award, according to the filing.

"The founders and board have a ton of confidence in him," Nelson said.

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