Gene Arbaugh

Gene Arbaugh 

Photo: Automotive Fleet

Gene Arbaugh, a retired long-time executive with PHH, passed away on November 18, 2022. He was 84.

Arbaugh retired from PHH, a Fortune 500 company, in 1997 following the company’s acquisition by Cendant Corporation. Under Arbaugh’s leadership, PHH solidified its role as a fleet management industry innovator  He was inducted in Automotive Fleet’s Fleet Hall of Fame in 2008.

Arbaugh joined the Peterson, Howell and Heather (PHH) Corporation as a member of the legal department in 1964 and as manager of the Contract Administration, Title and Tax division departments. He was promoted to VP legal services in 1971 and was promoted again in 1974 to senior vice president of the truck and equipment programs, where he expanded the company's initiatives in truck and equipment leasing.  Arbaugh became senior vice president of the PHH Car Division in 1976 and was promoted to executive vice president of the entire company in 1978.  In 1980, Arbaugh was named president of Peterson, Howell and Heather, Inc. In 1987, Arbaugh moved to PHH Corporate as VP of marketing. 

In the later years of his career, a team that included Arbaugh, along with Bob Kunisch, who was chairman of the board, negotiated the sale of PHH to HFS Corporation for stock valued at $1.7 billion in May 1997 and then both played a role in the $11 billion merger between the HFS and CUC corporations to form Cendant Corporation one month later. As part of the sales agreement, Arbaugh retired from PHH and became an executive with Cendant, where he remained until his full retirement at age 71 in 2009.

"Gene was unique. He assembled his teams based on an individual's ability to create and manage strong personal relationships and on each individual's ability to exhibit professionalism and integrity. He was a great mentor," said Buck Whitman, former PHH associate who worked with Arbaugh and his team from 1986 to 1997.

Arbaugh was born on June 30, 1938, in Manchester, Maryland, as an only child to Helen and Harry Arbaugh. He  excelled in baseball and was scouted at 17 to play baseball for a farm team of the Kansas City Athletics now known as the Oakland Athletics baseball team, which he ultimately turned down to focus on his education. In addition to any odd jobs he could get to help make ends meet and pay for college, Arbaugh worked at Carr’s Department store from the time he was 15 until he graduated from college. Arbaugh was awarded a senatorial scholarship in 1956, and attended Western Maryland College (now named McDaniel College), where he majored in both Economics and Political Science.  While attending Western Maryland College, Arbaugh met his future wife Starr Ann Beauchamp. They were married on April 14, 1962.

After graduating from Western Maryland College, Arbaugh left for basic training at Fort Bliss in Texas. His first assignment during the Cold War was as a first lieutenant stationed at the U.S. Air Force base in Thule, Greenland. After his honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, Arbaugh enlisted in the Maryland National Guard, where he served as a captain for over a decade. Upon his service completion in Greenland, Arbaugh attended and  later graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law with a Juris Doctorate degree. He held several jobs while being a full-time student, which included working at the local Coca Cola bottling company.

Arbaugh is survived by his wife of 60 years and three adult children – Victoria Arbaugh, Eugene Arbaugh Jr. (Rusty), Caroline Arbaugh, and five grandchildren.

A viewing will be held at the Ruck Funeral Home in Towson, Maryland, on December 5 from 2 to 4 p.m.  and 6 to 8 p.m. The funeral/celebration of life will be held December 6 at the Baltimore Country Club Five Farms location at 10:30 a.m. with a reception afterward.

About the author
Mike Antich

Mike Antich

Former Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Global Fleet of Hal in 2022. He also won the Industry Icon Award, presented jointly by the IARA and NAAA industry associations.

View Bio