Samuel J. Lee passed away on June 27, 1985, in Huntington Beach, CA. Lee will be remembered as a fleet and leasing pioneer, industry leader, market innovator, and community contributor.
Lee began his automotive career with Chevrolet in Montreal and New York City in 1929. He joined Ruby Chevrolet in Chicago in 1935. While with Ruby, Lee organized Lee Fleet Management, Inc., and in 1948 he moved the operation to Cleveland. The firm grew to become one of the nation's largest lessors, with over 12,000 cars in service. Lee sold the firm to LPI (later purchased by Gelco) in 1960 for $25 million.
Lee's career then shifted to the Los Angles area, where he had short stints with an equipment leasing company and Bird Rent a Car. Eventually he left both to establish the Fleetway System, which served car dealers in retail leasing and grew to a sizable network nationwide.
In 1965, Lee was named general manager of Chevway (Chevrolet dealers in retail leasing), which later became Genway. He established Leaseway Consultants, where he provided individual firms and dealerships with his leasing expertise. Lee also conducted numerous seminars across the country of the National Automobile Dealers Association and was instrumental in the formation of the original, nucleus chapter of the National Association of Fleet Administrators.
Lee was a prodigious writer and a regular contributor to the leasing trade press. In the early fifties, he authored Automotive Transportation in Industry, and in 1965, the text Introduction to Leasing. Lee published Leasing News and Fleet News for over a quarter of a century. He also wrote for the American Jewish Historical Society, his research culminating in the encyclopedic biographical work on the life of Baron Maurice de Hirsch, titled Moses of the New World.
Lee was a frequent speaker before Jewish historical forums and a member of the American Jewish Historical Society. In addition, he was formerly on the governing board of the Southern California Jewish Historical Board.
Sam Lee is survived by his wife and two sons.