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Athene-led merger made auto leasing super fleet

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Bermuda-based financial services company Athene Holding Ltd was the lead investor in a combination of an automotive fleet-leasing and management company and an award-winning developer of innovative fleet-management technology solutions.

Merging the highly complementary operations of one of the largest privately held companies in North America, Wheels Inc, and the perennially rated best and brightest Donlen LLC has created what is expected to be rated an investment-grade company.

The combined operations will bring enhanced mobility solutions and product offerings across large, mid-sized and small fleets to a broader universe of clients.

The new company has approximately $5 billion in assets, a broader product suite and a highly diversified, highly rated customer base.

Wheels chief financial officer Shlomo Crandus will lead the new company as CEO, and both the management team and board of directors will contain representatives from Donlen and Wheels. Donlen CEO Tom Callahan will become a senior executive and board member of the combined company.

The Athene-led investment is focused on long-term stability and best-in-class customer service.

There will be a significant focus on a measured approach to integration including the retention of both companies’ outstanding and experienced personnel and continuity of client-facing contacts to ensure a seamless and enhanced experience for their clients.

The depth and breadth of Athene's funding and financing capabilities will allow the company to offer clients an enhanced suite of solutions addressing a myriad of fleet and other needs.

Jim Belardi, chairman and chief executive officer of Athene, said: "The Frank family has built a tremendous business over more than 80 years, making Wheels a partner of choice to companies around the world.

“Combined with Donlen, we see even more opportunities for growth, best-in-class customer service and deployment of capital across the sector.

“For Athene, this transaction follows our longstanding strategy to invest in businesses with strong fundamentals, underwriting and direct origination capabilities, and the combined platform is expected to be rated investment grade.

“Over time, we see opportunities to invest in the combined company and look forward to partnering with the management team to help position the business for long-term success."

Jim Frank, chairman of Wheels Inc, said: "More than 80 years ago, my father set out to fill a client's need which resulted in an innovative solution — the world's first fleet-management company.

“Since then, we have grown into a global leader in fleet management, working with blue-chip businesses around the world to help make their fleets safer, greener, more productive and cost-efficient."

Dan Frank, CEO of Wheels, said: "Since inception, Wheels has prided itself on providing solutions to meet the evolving needs of our clients. I am incredibly proud of what our team has achieved, and I am equally impressed by the reputation Donlen has built as a fleet manager. Today's announcement is just the beginning of an exciting journey ahead for these companies."

Incoming CEO Shlomo Crandus said: "Today's announcement is about bringing together two best-in-class fleet management platforms to better serve the growing number of businesses that recognise the financial and operational benefits of outsourcing their fleet and mobility solutions.

“Together we can invest in innovative services and technology and deliver a world-class experience to more clients around the globe. We are excited by the opportunities that lie ahead to grow the business with a strong partner like Athene."

Current Donlen CEO Tom Callahan said: "We at Donlen have always had great respect for the team at Wheels, and the combination of these two businesses should further the companies' longstanding goal of providing our customers with best-in-class service.

“I am looking forward to working with the collective teams to ensure that the strong legacy of success that both Wheels and Donlen have built continues as a combined organisation."

Athene, through its subsidiaries, is a leading retirement services company with total assets of $215.5 billion as of June 30, 2021, and operations in Bermuda, the United States and Canada.

Athene specialises in helping its customers achieve financial security and is a solutions provider to institutions.

Jim Belardi, chairman and CEO of Athene
The Wheels and Donlen merger is creating an automotive fleet-leasing and management company of superior strength

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Published October 28, 2021 at 4:10 pm (Updated October 28, 2021 at 7:43 pm)

Athene-led merger made auto leasing super fleet

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