Joseph Holman, chairman emeritus of Holman Enterprises and a fleet leasing pioneer, has died.

Joseph Holman, chairman emeritus of Holman Enterprises and a fleet leasing pioneer, has died.

Photo courtesy of ARI.

Joseph (Joe) Holman, chairman emeritus of Holman Enterprises, passed away on Dec. 12. He was 93.

Holman Enterprises is a privately held, family-owned business that is the parent company of ARI, where Holman played a key role in the growth of the fleet leasing & management company for almost seven decades. In recognition of his contributions to the fleet industry, Holman was one of the 24 founding inductees to Automotive Fleet’s Fleet Hall of Fame.

Over the course of his career of 69 years, Holman helped lead Holman Automotive, the then-parent company of ARI.  Holman Automotive was founded in 1924 by his father, the late Steward  C. Holman, with a single Ford dealership in New Jersey.

The elder Holman was managing a Ford dealership in Toms River, N.J., when his original business partner, Charles Rice, offered to help capitalize a new Ford dealership in Merchantville, N.J. Together, they opened Rice & Holman Ford in 1924 selling the Model T, Model A, and the first V-8 models.

Since then, Holman Automotive has grown into one of the largest privately-owned dealership groups in the U.S., with 37 dealership franchises representing 18 brands in eight states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Kansas.

ARI (originally known as Automotive Rentals Inc.) was formed by the Holman family in October 1948 at the request of Ford Motor Company to organize a leasing and rental subsidiary to supply and service RCA's fleet of trucks.

ARI started its operations with a single desk in the corner of a Rice & Holman dealership showroom in Pennsauken, N.J. From this humble beginning, ARI grew to have operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the UK, and Europe, managing more than 1.7 million fleet vehicles.

Today, Holman Automotive and ARI are part of the Holman Enterprises family of businesses. In addition to dealerships and a multinational fleet leasing and management business, Holman Enterprises operates a leasing and auto retail finance company, a consumer and commercial insurance agency, an auto parts distributorship; and the Auto Truck Group, a truck upfitting business.

In March 2015, Holman's daughter, Mindy Holman, was named chairman of Holman Automotive (now Holman Enterprises), while her father assumed the role of chairman emeritus.

“My father lived a vibrant, extraordinary life, embracing and enjoying each day to its fullest for more than 93 years. He will be deeply missed by many but his spirit will endure through the indelible stories and memories he leaves behind in all of us,” said Mindy Holman, Chairman of the Board, Holman Enterprises. “My family and I have been incredibly blessed to work alongside my father for so many years as he taught us about the privilege and responsibility of stewarding a family business. He treated employees, customers, business partners, and the community like part of his own family and together, we will continue to live the Holman Way and build upon his legacy.”

Son of Katherine and Steward, Joe Holman grew up in Southern New Jersey along with his sister Eleanor, graduating from Merchantville High School in 1944. Following his high school graduation, Holman enlisted in the Navy, where he achieved the rank of Radio Electronics Technician, 3rd Class.

After completing his service with the Navy, Mr. Holman attended Princeton University where he played varsity basketball for four years. While playing for legendary coach Franklin “Cappy” Cappon, Mr. Holman was named team MVP twice, and in his junior year, the team captured the Ivy League title. Mr. Holman would go on to graduate from Princeton University in 1950. Shortly after his graduation from Princeton, Mr. Holman would marry his high school sweetheart and soon-to-be wife of 59 years, Jean Preston Polk. Together, the couple raised three children, their sons Jeff and Steve and daughter Mindy.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Joe Holman joined the family business in July of 1950. During the next sixty-nine years, Mr. Holman oversaw the transformation of his family’s business from a single Ford dealership in Maple Shade, New Jersey, to one of the premier automotive organizations in the industry. Today, Holman Enterprises is comprised of seven business segments that support diverse sectors of the automotive industry, employing nearly 7,000 people.

“Words cannot begin to express our collective sadness for the passing of Mr. Holman. He truly embodied the core values that have guided our company for 95 years and his memory will continue to inspire the entire organization for many years to come,” said Carl Ortell, CEO, Holman Enterprises. “His unwavering passion for life, his family, our people, the community, and his company will forever be the foundation of our organization.”

Holman gave a 2015 interview with Automotive Fleet magazine commemorating the 90th anniversary of Holman Automotive and the 67thn anniversary of ARI.

"It has been an incredible journey from ARI's early days as a desk in the corner of Rice & Holman Ford, to our expansion in the U.S. and throughout North America, to our eventual expansion overseas into Europe," he said. "We have evolved from a business that was mostly paper to one that has now come to be dominated by technology and data. We are at the beginning of a new time in fleet management, when the vehicles and the data they are able to return will help you not just know what to do today, but help you accurately predict what you should do tomorrow."

In addition to a successful business career,  Holman was long active in the local community. Holman's affiliations included the Camden County United Way, Rowan University Foundation, American Red Cross, and Cooper Hospital University Medical Center. He was a Life Trustee and Distinguished Fellow of Coriell Institute for Medical Research.

In his business life, Holman was a candidate for the Time magazine quality dealer award. He was actively involved in national, county, and local automobile dealers associations. He served on the Lincoln-Mercury dealer council, and his dealership honors included Ford's Vice President's 100 Club, Ford's Distinguished Achievement award, and the Automotive Hall of Fame Distinguished Service citation.

Holman is survived by his three children Jeffrey Holman, Steven Holman, and Mindy Holman.

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.

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