Tamara “Tammy” Darvish, for years the face of the Darcars auto dealerships and the first woman to chair the Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association, has filed a suit against her father, John R. Darvish Sr., and the company he founded, charging that he reneged on the one-third ownership he promised to her.
The 19-page suit, filed Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, alleges that Tammy Darvish refused a request by her two brothers, John and Jamie, that she sign a “side agreement” that would have given the brothers effective control over the company.
After her refusal, according to the court documents, John and Jamie “began pressuring their elderly father to cut Tammy out of the business completely.”
Last March, according to the suit, her father informed Tammy that he was turning over Darcars to her brothers, and she was being removed from her management position.
“Shortly thereafter, Tammy was asked to clean out her desk and was stripped of her authority and responsibilities as executive vice president,” the suit alleges.
The suit requests that Tammy Darvish be awarded Darcars shares worth one-third of the value of the privately-held firm. In a phone interview Friday, Tammy Darvish, 51, said, “it’s unfortunate now, after 30 years, my father doesn’t want to live up to written and oral commitments he made regarding the succession plan.
“I really hoped that we could resolve this within our family. But the actions of my father and stepbrothers have left me no choice but to pursue legal action.”
A spokesman for the John Darvish Sr., family said in a statement that members had not seen the lawsuit and therefore could not address the allegations.
“They are of course saddened to learn Tammy has taken this route. Mr. Darvish Sr. and his sons had hoped she would continue to represent and advocate for the Darcars brand. They love Tammy and know that the family will work through this difficult time,” the statement read.
Tammy Darvish said she is a salaried employee at the company and believes she retains the title of executive vice president. She said she continues to represent the company at auto association meetings, but she said she does not have an office.
Darcars Automotive is one of the Washington area’s iconic businesses, with more than 30 franchises at 20 locations, a sprawling regional collision repair center and more than $1 billion in revenue.
Last year alone, the car company, which spans the Washington metropolitan area and includes dealerships in Baltimore and Florida, sold an estimated 30,000-plus new cars.
John Darvish Sr., 77, an Iranian immigrant, began selling cars during a break while he was in a premed program at Elon University in North Carolina. He founded the company in 1977 after serving as a general manager for Jack Fitzgerald, another Washington auto dealer. He started by rescuing a pair of Chrysler and Plymouth dealerships in Wheaton and in Fairfax.
The company took off in the early 1990s after Darvish had diversified into Ford, Volkswagen, Buick and Toyota dealerships. Darvish became one of the first auto “mega-dealers” at a time when manufacturers preferred single-point sales locations.
John Darvish Sr. is divorced. Tammy and a twin sister are the daughters from John Darvish’s first marriage. John Jr., Jamie and another daughter are from John Sr.’s second marriage.
Tammy Darvish has been a longtime member of the executive board of directors for Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association and served as the association’s first woman chairman in 1999. She was an outspoken critic of government-ordered plans to close thousands of American dealerships after the industry collapsed during the Great Recession.
The suit paints a portrait of a woman executive deeply involved in the day-to-day operations and strategic decisions of Darcars, from new acquisitions to implementing Internet operations.
It alleges that Tammy Darvish was considering leaving the company in 2008 to buy a Toyota dealership in Baltimore but was persuaded by her father not to leave with a promise of equal ownership in the company with her two brothers, whom the lawsuit refers to as “half -brothers.”
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