Lithia announces CFO DeBoer's resignation

Jeff DeBoer, Lithia Motors' chief financial officer since March 2000 and the son of the company's chief executive, has resigned.

DeBoer joined the Medford-based auto retailer in March 1997 as vice president for finance and investor relations. He was named senior vice president and CFO three years later and helped guide the company from a regional privately held firm into a publicly traded company.

DeBoer, 45, signed a separation agreement with Lithia on June 4, which stated he will leave no later than Oct. 31, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. He will continue as a part-time consultant for the company, receiving $5,000 monthly for a two-year period. DeBoer will receive a severance payment of $690,000.

According to a company release, DeBoer said he had accomplished the goals he set when he joined the company in 1997 and Lithia's restructuring that started in 2008 now is largely completed.

"Under his leadership, the company has developed a strong finance and accounting team and has identified an internal candidate expected to be promoted following (his) departure," the press release from Lithia said.

Telephone messages left with Jeff DeBoer; his father, chairman and chief executive Sid DeBoer; his brother Brian, the company's president; or vice chairman Dick Heimann were not immediately returned on Monday.

According to the company's latest proxy statement, Jeff DeBoer received compensation of $775,058 in 2009 and holds nearly 44,000 shares of Lithia stock in addition to options and executive bonus plans.

According to the filing, DeBoer "shall make himself available at mutually agreeable times for special projects as requested by the CEO, which services will be limited to no more than 25 hours per month."

In addition, required travel costs, office and secretarial assistance will be supplied, according to the agreement. During that period, DeBoer will continue to participate in the company's employee benefits.

Under the terms of separation for the next two years — or six months after the end of his consulting work — DeBoer will not be able to hold a key position or consult with any publicly traded new retail automotive sales and service business in any state in which Lithia operates.

The eldest of the chairman's three sons working for Lithia, Jeff DeBoer struck off on his own before returning to the Rogue Valley in the late 1990s.

"A lot of times family business people are there without having been out on their own," he said during a January 2006 interview. "All of us demonstrated we can do things on our own very capably."

He earned a master's in business administration from the London Business School in 1994, with a specialty in finance and investment management. He was a credit officer for Fuji Bank, Ltd. in Tokyo from 1988 to 1992 and became an equity analyst and sector fund manager for Fidelity Investment Japan from 1994 to 1997.

"I didn't always plan to come back," DeBoer said shortly after his younger brother Brian was named president. "Lithia was a private company when I grew up and there wasn't a big need for my skills at Lithia. It was all about independence and success on my own in Japan, and I was doing well all on my own. When the company went public that changed. All of a sudden, there was a need for someone used to dealing with investors and investment banking. I had an opportunity to add value and fit into Lithia."

DeBoer later attended the National Auto Dealers Association's Dealer Academy in 1998.

"I've never run an automobile store and never worked in a car dealership," DeBoer said four years ago. "It's something I always understood; I wouldn't run the company. Sid has laid the plans very clearly; if I had problems with it I would've said something a long time ago. If there weren't clear lines of demarcation, there could have been problems. But we all have our own areas of expertise. As chief financial officer, I have quite a bit of responsibility and there is no shortage of challenges for me."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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