by Tony Moore
Ben Catanese and T.J. Doyle, both of the class of 2000, have teamed up (again) to raise more than a half a billion dollars for a new real estate fund that specializes in franchised car dealerships in NFL cities throughout the United States.
The former Dickinson roommates and football teammates went on after graduation to work for the same private equity commercial real estate development company. A decade later, it seemed the pair’s paths might split for good, as Catanese—a former international business & management major—left the real estate business to buy his first Volkswagen dealership, while Doyle went on to run an international mining company. But fate, and the automotive industry, would intervene when Catanese co-founded Gomoto, a technology company that helps car dealerships streamline their service centers—and Doyle became an investor.
"My Red Devil teammates have been a part of everything that I have done professionally and will continue to be,” says Catanese. “There is an unspoken level of trust amongst us that was built during our time in Carlisle that translates into a competitive advantage when applied in business.”
For Doyle, an opportunity built on that unbreakable connection paired with a solid business model built on data was too good to pass up.
“The auto industry is one of the most mature industries in the United States, having been around for over 100 years,” explains Doyle of his interest, noting that several other Dickinson alums were investors. “When making investment decisions, I prefer an environment where I can point to objective measures and data to drive decision making. The auto industry has plenty of data for our team to evaluate with the goal of minimizing risks that inherently exist in all investments.”
Cut to a decade later and Doyle is president/COO and Catanese is the CEO of a new venture, Legacy Automotive Capital, which specializes in sale leasebacks to franchised new-car dealerships. (A sale leaseback is a transaction in which the owner of a property sells it to free up capital and then immediately leases it back from the buyer.) In an interesting twist, the fund will target markets in which there is an NFL franchise.
“While out raising money for our venture, we met with and listened to the investment managers of over 150 large institutional advisors that manage significant pools of capital,” says Doyle, a former physics major, adding that the team continuously tweaked their investment strategy and criteria based on feedback from these groups. “NFL cities possess common characteristics, such as being in major markets, having a certain population density and diverse economic engines—and therefore demand drivers for the businesses that will ultimately occupy the buildings in our portfolio.”
As a result of the $500,000,000 raise, the Legacy team has already closed several transactions and is targeting deployment of $150 million of capital in the calendar year 2023. And Doyle sees his career success as something that was seeded back in Carlisle.
“Dickinson gave me a level of confidence that if I could excel in a rigorous science curriculum, there is nothing I couldn’t put my mind to,” Doyle says. “It also gave me the intellectual curiosity and appreciation for all things around me, with an exposure to many disciplines through a liberal-arts education. And in all of the 20-plus years since graduation, I’ve worked and invested with—and continue to—with an incredible network of relationships gained during my years at Dickinson.”
Published March 13, 2023