The sale, announced on Tuesday, is in line with The Dutton-Forshaw Group's strategy of growing and developing its core franchised car retailing business following its management buy-out from Lonrho in December 1997.
The acquisition is part of debis's long-term strategy to become a market leader in Europe through dramatically expanding its UK business. The buy-out brings its total fleet to 17,000 in the UK and 50,000 in Europe, including 35,000 in Germany. In the coming weeks the brand name Masterdrive will cease to exist as the entire operation is assimilated into debis.
John Lewis, commercial director of debis, said further acquisitions could follow and he added: 'We want to expand our UK fleet to 20,000 vehicles by the end of the year 2000 and this puts us well on the way to that.' The re-branding of Masterdrive would take place 'in a matter of weeks' and it was too early to say what would happen to its 90 staff. An announcement to staff is due to be made on June 24.