He’s not exactly a household name, but Ernest “Ernie” Garcia II has quietly become one of America’s richest men through selling and financing used cars, an unsexy business that has nonetheless proven highly lucrative. Forbes says the 63-year-old DriveTime owner is Arizona’s richest person, and the Bloomberg Billionaires Index pegs the combined net worth of Garcia and his son Ernie Garcia III at $21.4 billion.
The elder Garcia has now converted some of that green into sand, paying about $17.8 million for a “super rare” — per the listing — double-wide oceanfront lot in Manhattan Beach, the sunny and fitness-oriented city in L.A.’s South Bay region. Like the hard-charging business mogul he is, records show Garcia drove a stiff bargain for the compound, which was originally listed at $28.5 million when it first went on the market, in 2015, and last asked $22.8 million. The property previously sold in 1995 for just $2.3 million, to the late car collector Stanley Zimmerman.
Although the lot currently contains a large house, it’s no secret the real value here is in the land. The existing residence, an architecturally ambiguous 6,000-square-foot structure that looks rather more like a dowdy apartment complex than a typical $17.8 million mansion, was built in 1951, and the listing gently implies the place is a teardown, even providing renderings of a snazzy new home that could potentially be built on the lot.
Whatever Garcia’s plans for the .16-acre property, the place sits along the neighborhood’s famous Strand and is blessed with unstoppable ocean views and a sandy backyard. It’s also walking distance to the Manhattan Beach pier, plus variety of local shops and eateries.
Garcia, a convicted felon who served three years probation on a bank fraud charge in the early 1990s, bought the assets of bankrupt car rental business Ugly Duckling in 1991. That company eventually morphed into DriveTime, a Tempe, Arizona-based juggernaut that bills itself as largest privately-owned used car sales and finance company in the nation, with more than 125 dealerships and over 4,000 U.S. employees. Garcia and his son are also the founders of Carvana, an online used car retailer with $4 billion in annual revenue.