Mark O’Neil was the second employee hired in 1992 to help oversee the development of what is now CarMax.
O’Neil, who initially turned down a job offer to work at the company a year before it opened its first store, served in various roles at CarMax until 2000, including as vice president from 1997 to 2000.
Now he has been elected as a member of the Goochland County-based Fortune 500 retailer’s board.
“Mark is an automotive industry veteran with significant experience in bringing digital innovations to market,” William “Bill” Nash, who became CarMax’s president and CEO in 2016, said in a statement. “I am thrilled he is joining our board and we look forward to leveraging his expertise as we continue to build a seamless integration between the in-store and online customer experience.”
O’Neil, 61, retired in March as chief operating officer of Cox Automotive, the Atlanta-based company that owns automotive-related businesses including Kelley Blue Book, Autotrader.com, Dealertrack and Manheim.
He joined Cox Automotive after the company’s $4.5 billion acquisition of auto dealer software company Dealertrack. O’Neil served as chief executive officer of Dealertrack and a member of its board from 2001 until 2015, served as president from 2001 to 2014 and chairman from 2005 to 2015.
O’Neil was president of a dealer group consisting of 19 franchises near Scranton, Pa., when one of his Harvard University classmates worked at Circuit City Stores Inc. and knew the company was interested in getting into the auto business.
O’Neil contacted Richard L. Sharp, then Circuit City’s chairman and CEO, in early 1992 about the new auto venture that Circuit City was considering.
Sharp offered O’Neil a job. He turned it down initially. But Sharp and O’Neil continued a dialogue for six months about the concept and the economics of selling cars.
O’Neil finally decided to join the company. The first CarMax store opened in September 1993 on West Broad Street in western Henrico County.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to form something from scratch and really change the process,” O’Neil said in a 2003 article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Austin Ligon, CarMax’s co-founder and former CEO, said in that same article that he credits O’Neil with getting the business started. “We would have never gotten this off the ground without him,” Ligon said.
CarMax now has more than 200 stores nationwide, including two in the Richmond region.