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. Internet live bidding was also introduced that same year. A $17 million sale, 65 percent sales success ratio and over 100,000 spectators marked the 1998 event as did a cyber-simulcast on the Internet, a bidder liaison service and the introduction of an international designer fashion show.
The Barrett-Jackson docket was also changing, 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 $100 million in 2006, $112 million in 2007, $88 million in 2008, $63 million in 2009 and over $68 million in 2010. This business method created an exciting environment reflected by strong attendance. Attendance for the three events in the 2008-2010 season exceeded well over 400,000.
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 2009, the event boasted over $20 million in sales, 487 cars and over 1,000 bidders. During the event, Barrett-Jackson announced its latest service to the hobby in the form of collector car insurance. Barrett-Jackson Endorsed Collector Car Insurance offers cost-effective, comprehensive insurance coverage designed especially for collectors.
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.
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 October 2009, Barrett-Jackson returned to Vegas with another impressive showing of $23 million in sales and 51,000 attendees. Jackson and his team offered about 400 cars at the second annual event, allowing those at the auction a chance to enjoy the distinctive offerings of Las Vegas during the evening hours.
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.