UA Business Hall of Fame 2014: Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty

by UA Business Hall of Fame  on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014 12:00 am  

Forbes and Wall Street Transcript recognized the company for management excellence, and the NAACP recognized it for its strong minority practices. The company also received the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s first Corporate Stewardship Award.

Also during that time, McLarty served on the Arkansas Business Council, which worked to develop and support then-Gov. Clinton’s educational reform initiatives. On the national stage, McLarty was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the National Petroleum Council and the National Council on Environmental Quality and also served as a governor on the St. Louis Federal Reserve Board.

In 1992 President-elect Clinton, McLarty’s lifelong friend, asked him to serve as White House chief of staff.

McLarty helped enact the historic, 1993 deficit reduction package, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Family and Medical Leave law, and the landmark welfare reform legislation. He also facilitated the President’s first meetings with global leaders Boris Yeltsin and Jiang Zemin.

Later, as counselor to the President, McLarty served as White House Coordinator for the Centennial Games in Atlanta. He was also the point person for the northwest Arkansas airport, working closely with regional leaders.

He organized the successful 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami, which led to his appointment as Special Envoy for the Americas. In recognition, McLarty was awarded the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal and the highest civilian honors of seven Latin American countries.

Upon leaving the White House in 1998, McLarty had the opportunity to advise on the largest merger in history, which led to the creation of ExxonMobil. Shortly thereafter, he formed an international strategic advisory firm in partnership with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. McLarty continues that work as chairman of McLarty Associates, based in Washington.

While his government service had required McLarty to relinquish his business management role, the McLarty Companies continued to flourish during the 1990s. By the time McLarty left the White House, it was one of the top dealer groups in the United States, with 20 automobile dealership franchises and annual sales of roughly $600 million.

McLarty’s return to the private sector coincided with a significant period of consolidation in the retail automotive sector. The McLarty family merged its company with Asbury Automotive Group. McLarty became vice chair and a director on the Asbury board and helped take that company public.

Meanwhile, with the leadership of his son Mark, and building on McLarty’s experience as special envoy, the McLarty family began expanding their automotive endeavors abroad. Today, their fourth-generation family business has operations in Brazil, Mexico and China; founder Mark McLarty remains chief executive officer of these international entities.

In 2004, Mack McLarty reestablished his family dealership holdings in partnership with his son Franklin and his longtime friend and former competitor Steve Landers. In 2007, the company formed a partnership with Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television. Today, Franklin serves as chief executive officer of RML — the largest minority-owned dealer group in the country, with 35 automotive franchises in eight states and $1.5 billion in revenue.

With Donna, McLarty has strongly supported the University of Arkansas, serving on the University’s 2010 Commission, establishing the McLarty Global Fellows program to enable international study for students, bequeathing his papers to the university, speaking at the Clinton, Fulbright and Walton schools, and delivering the commencement address in 2000, when he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws.

The McLartys are active members of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church and have been recognized by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for their work in the community. They were also joint recipients of the Arkansas Humanitarian Award, as well as the American Gas Association Humanitarian Public Service Award.

McLarty’s many other civic honors include the Pinnacle Award, Easter Seals Arkansan of the Year, Sigma Chi fraternity’s Significant Sig Award, Junior Achievement of Arkansas’ Legacy Award and City Year’s Lifetime of Service Award.

But without hesitation, Mack McLarty would say his most meaningful achievement in life is his family: Donna, Mark and Franklin, daughter-in-law Gabriela and his granddaughter Brianna, who — to borrow a line from Mary Poppins — McLarty thinks is practically perfect in every way.



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