LeasePlan Corporation announced on June 13, 2022, that Wheels Donlen’s parent company has signed a stock purchase agreement with LeasePlan Corporation to acquire LeasePlan USA, and subsequently combine the business with Wheels Donlen to create a unified fleet management business. According to the company, this combination creates a strong competitor in the mobility space, which will allow Wheels Donlen and LeasePlan USA to provide enhanced solutions to corporate fleets. Benefitting from added scale, materially increased investment capacity, and differentiated capabilities, the combined company will be better positioned to service customers and facilitate growing trends toward EVs and digital technologies.
Both the management team and Board of Directors will include representatives from Wheels Donlen and LeasePlan USA. LeasePlan USA CEO Matt Dyer will become a senior executive and board member of the combined company. Additionally, as part of this transaction, LeasePlan USA and LeasePlan Corp. will enter into a Cooperation Agreement to deliver global fleet management services to both companies’ international clients following the completion of the transaction, ensuring the full availability of the global fleet solutions their clients have come to expect. Likewise, the existing global alliance between Wheels Donlen and ALD will continue, and that transaction is expected to close by year-end 2022.
AF: How would you describe this stock purchase agreement? Are you merging LeasePlan USA into Wheels Donlen or are you acquiring them?
CRANDUS: The agreement is that our parent, Athene Holdings, entered into a stock purchase agreement to acquire LeasePlan USA from LeasePlan Corp. Semantics are important. What we’re doing is bringing Wheels Donlen and LeasePlan together. It’s an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other. We’re going to bring benefits to our clients and our employees. And I have to say that all the people here in Illinois are very excited to welcome LeasePlan and all its employees to the family. Our end goal remains to deliver great results for our clients. We expect the transaction to close toward the end of this year.
AF: The acquisition of LeasePlan is part of a much larger acquisition in which ALD is acquiring LeasePlan on a global basis. In addition, ALD has a long-standing relationship with Wheels Donlen in a global alliance. Could you address these two dynamics and explain to the readers how it all fits together?
CRANDUS: Wheels Donlen and ALD have been in a global alliance since 2009, and over the past 13 years we’ve been together, our relationship has grown closer and more collaborative. And it was in part because of our alliance and long-standing partnership that this opportunity became a reality. The transactions are separate. Clearly, from a business standpoint, there are objectives that both Wheels Donlen and ALD are trying to accomplish and to do that, there will be a cooperation agreement in the USA. LeasePlan Corporation will enter into the agreement at the time we close on the acquisition of LeasePlan USA. The goal of that is to have uninterrupted global fleet management services for all of the legacy LeasePlan International clients. Another goal of this transaction is that we will have by far the most robust global fleet solutions for all of our clients across Wheels Donlen and LeasePlan as the companies come together. The Wheels Donlen and ALD global alliance relationship will continue. As we come together, our clients will access the most robust offerings across 60 countries. We will be manufacturer agnostic, and we’ll be able to address over 95 percent of the worldwide fleet market.
AF: Everyone understands the rationale for the acquisition and the merger makes sense, But some fleet managers say it will reduce the number of fleet management companies serving the fleet market. How would you address that?
CRANDUS: The marriage of Wheels Donlen and LeasePlan is partly intended to address increasing competition in the fleet space. We need greater resources that we can put into our business to remain competitive and to focus on all sorts of changes occurring in terms of competition. We’re in a unique period where all sorts of companies are joining the fleet space. We’ve seen SaaS (software as a service) providers try to sign clients away from us. Many of the vendors that we work with have expanded their services in order to provide clients more choice. We’ve seen many new EV manufacturers creating new models both on the fleet side as well as the dealership and delivery sides of our industry. We have the legacy OEMs bundling electric vehicle and services systems to power the vehicles. Fleet managers today have more choices than ever before. This acquisition is part of our response to growing competition, and it provides us with the capabilities both from a financial and a manpower standpoint to expand services and provide new offerings to our clients. This combination will benefit all clients.
AF: With this in mind, are there any additional acquisitions on the horizon beyond this?
CRANDUS: Our parent Athene is looking for ways to improve and expand. In order to do that Athene needs to give us the tools to better meet our client needs. As we said, the industry is going through a rapid period of change. We’re electrifying fleets. Our clients are focused on ESG. We’re using new tools and data in really exciting ways to manage fleets.
We’ll continue being a leader by developing and inventing new solutions internally. And over time, it’s possible that there’ll be other capabilities that will be created in inorganic ways.
So there’s a final thought that I want to leave with you – our top-of-mind focus is delivering client success. When our clients succeed, we succeed. The activity that you’ve seen from Wheels Donlen and that we’re discussing today is just part of one of the strategies that we’re following in order to continue helping our clients succeed.