Everyone in the fleet industry knew Ed Bobit and I view myself as privileged to have had an opportunity to work with Ed for the past 28 years. One of the highest compliments you can give to someone in the auto industry is to say they have gasoline running through their veins. In Ed’s case, he had “fleet” running through his veins. The fleet industry is described as a relationship business; well, Ed Bobit epitomized it. He genuinely loved the fleet industry and the people who comprised it.
I remember once working side-by-side with Ed in the early 1990s, as we were “dummying” a magazine, which is how we did it prior to computerized layouts. As we worked feverishly to meet our FedEx deadline, Ed was helping me locate a photo needed for the publication. As he thumbed through our extensive files of print photographs of industry leaders, past and present, I heard Ed mumble softly to himself: “I’m the luckiest guy alive to have known such great people.” That moment has stuck with me after all these years, because it was so genuine. He really meant it.
There were many other genuine aspects to Ed’s personality. One of the most impressive was his willingness to help people in a time of need. There are many people in this industry, past and present, to whom Ed was instrumental in helping them locate a job when they suddenly found themselves without one. Ed never publicized it, but, if you came to him and asked for help, he would do all that he could to help you out. However, there were also other instances that I know where someone found themselves in a predicament or down on their luck and Ed quietly helped them out. He never volunteered this information to me, but I heard of them from those he helped. It’s one thing to perform good deeds and publicize them to others, but it is at is a sign of character to perform good deeds and to keep them to yourself. This was the Ed Bobit I came to know over the years.
Although a demanding boss, at least in the early years, what I loved about Ed was that he was an open book. If you asked me what would be Ed’s opinion on any hypothetical situation you could imagine, I could answer with 99.999 percent certainty as to where he would fall on an issue. There was no gray area with Ed Bobit. He was principled in his beliefs and he wasn’t wishy-washy about them. This is what made him a great manager and coach.
Closing of a Chapter
When Ed passed away peacefully in his sleep the early morning of June 29, a chapter in the history of fleet came to a close. Ed survived almost all of his contemporaries, except for a few, and remained active in the fleet industry until shortly before his death. Ed’s longevity made him an eyewitness to all the major events in the history of the fleet industry. I loved talking with him about the “early years,” but his insider knowledge, along with his hilarious anecdotes, are now forever lost, and only memorialized in a sanitized format on the pages of Automotive Fleet.
In fact, Ed’s involvement in the fleet industry preceded Automotive Fleet, as he worked for McGraw-Hill’s Fleet Owner magazine for seven years prior to the launch of his company, then-known as Bobit Publishing, now Bobit Business Media. Ed left his mark on the fleet industry in many ways. One of which was being one of the founding members of the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) and a long-time supporter of NAFA, where he was named an honorary lifetime member. (Despite what critics may say, Ed’s only goal through his editorial writings was to encourage NAFA to achieve its full potential.) Since Day One, Ed was also a strong supporter of the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance (IARA), which has since evolved to be the voice of vehicle consignors in the wholesale remarketing industry. As a true partner, Ed readily provided the unwavering support and substantial resources of Bobit Business Media to assist the Alliance whenever and wherever possible.
Not only was Ed well known in the fleet industry, but he was similarly well known in a number of other industries in which Bobit Business Media published industry trade magazines and produced industry conferences. Many in the fleet industry might not know that Ed was just as well-known in the busing industry (through Metro and School Bus Fleet), the wholesale remarketing industry (Conference of Automotive Remarketing), the beauty industry (Nails magazine), and among franchised dealers (F&I magazine and conference), to name but a few.
My remembrances of Ed are not all work-related. One of my fondest memories was when the two of us were invited to attend an industry event in Prague. Prior to our departure, Ed asked me when I was planning to leave for Europe. I told him that since the event didn’t start until Tuesday, I was looking to leave early and spend the weekend sightseeing. “So am I,” said Ed. “I’m planning to go to the ‘old country’ to look up some of my relatives. You wouldn’t want to come with me, would you?” In a heartbeat, I said: “Yes, I would love too.” That weekend, we traveled throughout the scenic Tatra Mountains in Slovakia successfully locating long-lost relatives of Ed, who, despite not knowing we were arriving, greeted us with open arms and impromptu feasts.
We never had an Argument
In hindsight, Ed took a chance with me when he hired me back in 1985, especially since I had no automotive experience. However, a quarter of a century later, I was beaming when Ed personally inducted me into the Fleet Hall of Fame. In his introduction, Ed had many nice things to say about me, but what stood out was his observation that we’ve never had an argument. I never thought about it, but it’s absolutely true; never once did we argue. It was a great way to exemplify our friendship and my personal respect for Ed.
Ed led a remarkable life, and some might say it was almost bigger than life. Ed was a child of the Great Depression, which had a strong impact on him, along with all those of his generation. He lived life to the fullest and was always the life of any get-together. I can still hear the sound of his booming laughter that would reverberate at many of these events. But, most importantly, Ed was a true visionary and risk taker. Ask yourself: Would you leave a very good paying job with a family of five young children and your wife pregnant with the sixth child to start a magazine? Well, this is exactly what Ed did. It was this type of leap-of-faith conviction and determination that made him a self-made giant in our industry. Many in our industry even go further to describe him as an industry icon, with myself being among those in sharing this belief.
Ed had a one-of-a-kind personality and I’m 99.999-percent confident that Ed would approve of these accolades as I envision him looking down from above puffing on a Marsh Wheeling cigar, with a raised glass of Grey Goose vodka on the rocks in the company of a buxom angel.
Let me know what you think.