published Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Saban confirms he's partner in Mercedes dealership

IRONDALE, Ala. — Nick Saban says he's getting into the car business.

The Alabama football coach confirmed he and a partner are working to open a Mercedes-Benz dealership in the Birmingham area after lawyers for a competing dealer said they intend to subpoena Saban to find out if he was doing business with Mercedes.

"My partner and I have entered into a letter agreement with Mercedes Benz to open a new dealership in Irondale," Saban said in a statement Monday provided by his attorney, Bobby Plott. "We are honored to join the Mercedes family and are extremely excited about the benefits this dealership will bring to the citizens of Birmingham, Irondale and surrounding areas."

Saban's partner, Joe Agresti, told that land has been purchased for the new dealership near Irondale's Grants Mill Road auto mall. But he said construction is delayed until a civil suit filed by another area Mercedes dealer is resolved.

Attorneys for Crown Automobiles of Hoover sued Mercedes-Benz USA in December, saying word that a second Mercedes dealership was planned for the Birmingham area derailed plans to sell the Hoover car lot and caused its owners "immediate and irreparable harm." Mercedes-Benz attorneys have argued the automaker is within its rights to open another dealership.

Saban isn't a party in the lawsuit. But his name came up when Crown Automobiles' lawyers filed a notice of intent to subpoena the coach in an effort to uncover any business ties he had to Mercedes. Plott said the coach will comply with any subpoenas that end up being issued.

Agresti, who already sells Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Louisiana, said Saban years ago expressed an interest in partnering on an Alabama dealership.

"He told me, 'I don't have a minute to run it, but I love the brand,'" Agresti said.

Mercedes-Benz won't allow the planned dealership to bear Saban's name, Agresti said, but the coach will help with advertising and marketing and plans to appear at special events for customers.

"You'll get to see his smiling face on TV often," Agresti said.

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