It began in Scottsdale, Arizona – a Wild-West town that had yet to spread its wings and create its own identity. Russ Jackson and Tom Barrett were drawn together by a car advertised for sale. Mr. Barrett was selling his 1933 Cadillac V16 Town Car, and it appeared Mr. Jackson was interested. “Appeared” may be the operative word, as a deal was never struck. However, the beginning of a lifelong friendship and partnership was firmly cemented between these two car guys.
That initial enterprise set the tone for what would become the Barrett-Jackson legacy. In 1967, Barrett and Jackson presented a car show they called, with the appropriate flair, “Fiesta de los Autos Elegantes.” The event was a fundraiser for local charities, including the Scottsdale Library and the community art center.
In 1971, the two combined their talents to present the company’s first collector car auction, featuring classics from their individual collections. Barrett’s Mercedes 770 Phaeton captured industry headlines, selling for $153,000 and grabbing the attention of collectors worldwide. The sale and the inaugural event thrust the Barrett-Jackson name into international prominence.
The 1980s represented a “growth spurt” throughout the collector car industry, with record prices and record participation at events across the country. However, the Barrett-Jackson partnership was not content to ride the wave, as the two men continued to set the standard.
Barrett brought the very best and rarest automobiles to the event, earning the reputation as the “Grandfather of the Collector Car Industry,” while Jackson expertly collected and restored cars for show. It was during this time that Jackson brought his sons Brian and Craig onto the team, while wife Nellie ran the day-to-day operations of this thriving collector car auction company.
Change continued to be the theme as Barrett-Jackson grew through the 1990s. Russ Jackson passed away in 1993, Brian Jackson succumbed to cancer in 1995, and Tom Barrett, who retired in 1997, passed away in 2004. Craig Jackson, who had actively worked daily within the company and on-site during the auction, assumed the reins in 1995.
With Craig Jackson at the helm, Barrett-Jackson rose to even greater heights using an aggressive plan of growth, expansion and hi-tech innovations.
The auction began airing live on SPEED in 1997, a partnership that has grown to tens of millions of loyal viewers. In fact, 2014 will boast the largest television audience in the company’s history. The 43rd annual Scottsdale will be seen on channels including FOX, the FOX Business Network, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and the National Geographic Channel. It provides the auction company an opportunity to both reach the already dedicated automotive enthusiast and to introduce its high-energy presentation and collector car lifestyle to a broad new audience.
Speaking of a wide and loyal audience, Internet live bidding was introduced in 1998. Roughly $17 million in sales, 65 percent of reserves met and over 100,000 spectators marked the 1998 event as did a web simulcast, a bidder liaison service and the introduction of a couture fashion show – components which have come to define the signature luxury Barrett-Jackson experience.
The Barrett-Jackson docket was also changing at the turn of the millennium, as more muscle cars, Hot Rods and Resto-Mods began crossing the block. In 2005, Barrett-Jackson became one of the first auction houses to offer every vehicle at No Reserve, which means that every vehicle sold to its highest bidder. This ground-breaking approach led to monumental growth for years to come, including recent Scottsdale sales totals of $63 million in 2009, over $68 million in 2010, $70 million in 2011, over $92 million in 2012 and nearly $109 million in 2013. This business method created an exciting environment reflected by strong attendance. Attendance for the three events in the 2010 - 2013 seasons exceeded well over 700,000.
The success of the Scottsdale event led collectors on the East Coast to clamor for their own auction. In 2003, Barrett-Jackson took its famous auction and lifestyle event across the country to Palm Beach, Florida. With a unique ambiance and collector car lineup that reflected the South Florida setting, the Palm Beach auction recorded impressive attendance and sales. In 2013, the event boasted over $21 million in sales, 423 cars and nearly 1,000 bidders.
Barrett-Jackson’s reputation for success in the collector car auctions and services industry became the true benchmark in the industry and nothing less than stellar. But, resting on a plateau was not in its business plan. Barrett-Jackson took the first step to vertical progress in September 2007 by joining forces with Endeavour Capital, a West Coast based private equity investment firm. They took a minority, yet noteworthy, stake in the company after exhaustive due diligence.
Post-partnership successes include the launch of Barrett-Jackson licensed merchandise including apparel, signature car care, battery chargers, garage cabinetry and Planet Color ® Barrett-Jackson Collector Color Series factory-packages auto.
Barrett-Jackson’s monumental growth continued in 2008 when it added a Las Vegas event at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, giving auto enthusiasts around the globe the one-and-only “Triple Crown” of car collecting. The inaugural Las Vegas event was a smash hit, attracting an eclectic crop of 533 collector vehicles, over 50,000 attendees and nearly $30 million in total sales. In September 2013, Barrett-Jackson returned to Vegas with a record breaking auction showing of over $32 million in sales and nearly 70,000 attendees. Jackson and his team offered about 658 cars at the sixth annual event, allowing those at the auction a chance to enjoy the distinctive offerings of Las Vegas during the evening hours.
But Sin City wasn’t Barrett-Jackson’s last stop in the Silver State. In 2013, it added its first ever Hot August Nights Auction Presented by Barrett-Jackson. The August event recorded more than $14.2 million in sales, 40,000 attendees and an inaugural Barrett-Jackson Cup ™ which awarded $20,000 to the winner. The cars crossing the block were equally impressive.
As emerging technologies grow, Barrett-Jackson continues to take the lead. Today, Barrett-Jackson’s social media presence is the best in the business with more than 100,000 Facebook fans and Twitter and Instagram followers.
Throughout the years, innovative changes have sparked growth at Barrett-Jackson and vaulted the family-run auction company onto a worldwide stage. As a result, a hobby once dominated by dealers and the ultra-wealthy is now enjoyed by families, first-time buyers and general enthusiasts. As the industry continues to evolve, Barrett-Jackson will remain at the forefront by offering the world’s most desirable vehicles and an experience that appeals to everyone.
In 2010, Craig Jackson, Chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auction Company LLC, established the Barrett-Jackson Cancer Research Fund in Memory of Russ and Brian Jackson at TGen in honor of his father and brother whose lives were cut short by colon cancer.
Craig's vision - along with your support - will enable TGen scientists and physicians to accelerate the development of new diagnostic tests and therapies for patients battling colon and prostate cancer.