Wheels & Donlen merge, form new company

CARY, N.C. – 

Consolidation has been a big theme in the auto industry this year, and a move announced Thursday involved the fleet/lease space.

The combination of Wheels, Inc., and Donlen, LLC has closed, announced Athene Holding Ltd., a financial services company that is the lead investor in the transaction. 

Athene had previously purchased Donlen from Hertz Global Holdings for $891 million, a deal that closed in the first quarter.

The chief executive officer of the combined entity will be Shlomo Crandus, currently the chief financial officer of Wheels. 

“Today’s announcement is about bringing together two best-in-class fleet management platforms to better serve the growing number of businesses that recognize the financial and operational benefits of outsourcing their fleet and mobility solutions,” Crandus said in a news release. 

“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,” he said.

Both Donlen and Wheels will have representatives on the board. 

Tom Callahan, the CEO of Donlen, will be a senior executive and board member for the new company.

“We at Donlen have always had great respect for the team at Wheels, and the combination of these two businesses should further the companies’ long-standing goal of providing our customers with best-in-class service,” Callahan said. “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 organization.”

With the merger, the combined company will be able to offer mobility solutions to a variety of clients across a wide spectrum, Athene said in a news release.

“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,” Wheels chairman Jim Frank said.

Wheels CEO Dan Frank added: “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.”

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