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Published: Friday, 1/3/2003

Ballas widow to take over reins

Marianne Ballas intends to become owner-operator of her recently deceased husband's Central Avenue Strip dealership, George Ballas Buick-GMC, a succession he began planning for years ago, she said yesterday.

General Motors Corp. certified and approved Mrs. Ballas in early 2000 to be her husband's successor. Mr. Ballas, 74, died Dec. 26 after suffering from an aortic aneurysm, or burst artery.

“It was George's wish that I be his successor,” said Mrs. Ballas, who began working at the dealership three decades ago. “George had a lot of confidence in me, and I'm not going to let him down.”

The automaker asks dealers to have succession plans or lists of likely candidates in place. Families are given six months to decide what to do after a dealer's death, and GM works with them, said Jim Bunnell, GM's regional sales manager in Chicago.

Although there aren't officially “owner-operators” in place during those six months, he said, dealerships' operations are left in the hands of families and existing management.

Mrs. Ballas said she plans to notify GM soon of her intentions to become owner-operator of the dealership, a capacity in which she began working after her husband's funeral Monday. It is helping her deal with her grief, and the dealership's other management and support personnel are remaining, she said.

“It's a smooth transition,” she said. “It was all planned, and it was all in his game plan.”

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