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Lithia founder takes a pay cut, will receive $1.05 million a year for life

Lithia Motors founder Sid DeBoer will take a pay cut beginning January 2016, but his role as executive chairman will remain unchanged. 

According a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, DeBoer, 72, received annual compensation of approximately $3.2 million each of the past three years, including deferred compensation and long-term incentive plan contributions. Under terms announced in the filing, DeBoer will receive $1.05 million annually for life, along with a $42,000 care allowance, as well as insurance reimbursements. Beginning in January, Lithia will pay DeBoer similarly to its independent board members, who have received $210,000 annually.

"It's a huge pay cut for me'" said DeBoer, who is attending the Pendleton Roundup this week. "But that's good for the company, because they still get me."

DeBoer transformed a small-town dealership in Ashland into one of nation's top auto retailers with annual revenue of more than $4 billion. He will continue leading board meetings. He founded the company in 1968 and led the transition to a publicly traded firm in December 1996. He turned over Lithia's day-to-day operations to one of his three sons, Bryan, the present president and CEO, in May 2012.

"I've been delighted with Bryan and his management team's performance," he said.

Since relinquishing the CEO role, DeBoer has continued work on acquisitions, investor relations, the National Auto Dealers Association board and Chrysler's national dealer council.

"All of the major shareholders know me personally, and we've been part of their investment pool for a long time," DeBoer said. "They're comfortable that I'm still around."

With a constant eye on the future and expansion, DeBoer continues to cultivate opportunities.

"I have a lot of friends in the business, and I'm always working on my friends to sell me their stores."

He said he still works 60 to 70 hours weekly and handles 300 emails a day.

"I like being busy," DeBoer said. "My office is mobile, because I'm doing exactly the same thing on the road or office. The (headquarters) office is only a place for face-to-face meetings, and we still have a lot of meetings."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/EconomicEdge.