Jim Hallett has been with what is now called KAR Auction Services the better part of the past two-and-a-half decades.
Hallett, who has been KAR’s chief executive since 2009, has had a front-row seat to the company’s evolution. And he sees the OPENLANE purchase in 2011 as having been an “inflection point” for KAR.
This acquisition, a physical auction company (KAR’s ADESA subsidiary) buying an online auction, “changed our company overnight,” Hallett said.
“Over the years, of all the acquisitions we did, I would look at OPENLANE as being one of the most transformative acquisitions we made in the history of our company,” Hallett said in a January phone interview. “And we went from being a laggard to a leader with the acquisition of OPENLANE.
“And it didn’t change our company only because we sold more cars. It changed our company because of the new thinking and the new talent that we brought into the company.
“And that was led by Peter Kelly,” Hallett said. “I think bringing Peter into this company was a change in the way we thought about our business and the way we thought about our future and how we’re going to do business.”
Now that leadership Hallett describes has taken on a new form and in a new role for Kelly: president at KAR.
Kelly has been with KAR since 2011 (which is when it acquired OPENLANE) and was the co-founder, president and CEO of OPENLANE.
His most recent post with KAR was as its president of digital services.
In a January news release announcing Kelly’s promotion to the position of president, the company said the newly created role was, “aimed at aligning KAR’s strategy and execution to streamline operational integrations, enhance product development, and accelerate growth,” and follows years of investments and acquisitions that have significantly (and globally) broadened KAR’s capabilities and footprint.
Capabilities and a footprint that, for one, play into what Hallett described in the release as a “more global, digital and data-driven future.”
Hallett pointed out the “entrepreneurial vision and outlook and drive” that Kelly had some two decades ago in co-founding an online wholesale company like OPENLANE, which has grown from selling 300,000 cars annually when KAR purchased it to more than a million in the past year.
Beyond his vision and chops on the tech side, Hallett sees leadership skills in Kelly that include management, financial and operational savvy.
“If I’d have put this out to a number of search companies, they couldn’t have come up with a better candidate than Peter Kelly,” Hallett said.
Kelly, who reports to Hallett in the new role, said in the phone interview: “I think KAR is a unique company, with a unique set of assets that we’ve built up here over many years — a great combination of physical assets as well as digital. “An end-to-end solution for remarketing.”
Kelly will play a larger part in maintaining growth there and “making it ever-more relevant to our customers.”
He will be involved in the integration of solutions KAR has acquired over the years, as well as growing KAR’s business and its technology.
“Our industry is clearly being impacted in a very fundamental way by digital technologies,” Kelly said. “And as Jim said, we definitely try to be a leader in that. I believe we are a leader in many areas of that. We want to lead in, in all areas if we can.”
He added: “We’ve got a strong team here — people I know well and respect a lot. So working very closely with that team to make all this a reality, I’m excited about that.”