The Coker Group, manufacturer of collector car and motorcycle tires and wheels, has announced its acquisition by Coker President and CEO Wade Kawasaki and the current Coker Group leadership team in partnership with Irving Place Capital. The Coker Group consists of the Coker Tire, Wheel Vintiques, Universal Vintage Tire, Phoenix Race Tires, Specialty Wheel and Roadster Wire Wheel brands.
"The sale comes after five years of continuous growth for the Coker Group under Wade, who will remain at the helm of the company," officials said.
"The Coker Group will continue to operate under the same leadership team and staff that helped drive that growth while expanding both its range of products and its portfolio of companies."
“I would like to thank Corky Coker for his decades of leadership at Coker Tire and for the confidence and trust he has placed in me as I have led the company and positioned it for the next chapter,” said Mr. Kawasaki. “We intend to accelerate growth with our partners at Irving Place Capital as we expand into newer models and markets while continuing to serve the traditional restoration market that has been our home for six decades. Coker Group will continue to provide our customers with the same best-in-class products, great customer service that they know to expect and we look forward to creating more jobs, offering more products and continuing the Coker Group legacy together.”
Automotive aftermarket icon Corky Coker will retain ownership of Honest Charley Speed Shop, and his property management company, which he will continue to manage with his children. Officials said, "Corky’s father, Harold Coker, founded Coker Tire in 1958 as a local tire store, which grew over the years until Corky took the reins and began aggressively expanding the product line to support the booming restoration market. The company grew its offerings to include the hot rod, muscle car, motorcycle, motorsports and import markets."
“After my retirement in 2014, the Coker Group flourished under the leadership of Wade and his team,” Corky Coker said. “Coker Group has been and will continue to be committed to our core vintage customer and I have full confidence that this next step will be terrific for the company and the employees. The collector car market is evolving, and with the current surge in interest in 1970s, 1980s and even 90s vehicles, no one is better suited to expand the company strategically than Wade, who has always had a deep appreciation for these vehicles.”
Irving Place Capital is an active investor in the consumer, industrial and packaging sectors, including the high-performance vehicle aftermarket through its ownership of Dynojet Research. Irving Place Capital Co-Managing Partner Phil Carpenter worked with aftermarket veteran Dan Gresham and Wade Kawasaki on this transaction.
“We are excited to work with Wade and the Coker Group –this partnership positions the company for long-term growth both domestically and internationally,” Mr. Carpenter said. “The Coker family built a brand and a portfolio of companies that are beloved by enthusiasts around the world. By partnering with Wade and his team we will together advance that legacy well into the future.”
Lil Coker, widow of Harold and mother of Corky, said, "It is sad to see this part of my life come to a close, but as I thought about it, we all must come to a time of change and this change will be new ownership of Coker Tire. So it is my hope and prayer that those who carry Coker Tire Company into the future will be as blessed as we have been.
"It is an ending to the story of how Harold Coker, a tire dealer, had a vision of providing tires for collector cars all over the world and he saw that vision come true. Corky caught that vision and Harold lived to see it come true. In 2006 a reporter from a local newspaper asked my husband Harold about how a niche business could become so successful worldwide. Harold answered, 'First, I give glory to God. If you serve people well, profits will come. If profit is your only motive, you won’t do as well. It’s been a lot of fun for me to combine a hobby I love with a business.' Harold loved people and a hobby that became his business in 1958. "May God bless those who carry it into the future.”
Corky Coker‘s amazing car collection has become a top tourist attraction in Chattanooga and will still be on display in his museum. The museum is under recontruction temporarily, but will reopen later this year with its entry at Honest Charley Speed Shop on Chestnut Street.