Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Brian E. Kendrick, considered one of retailing’s sharpest financial and operations executives, adept at navigating public companies in face of the rigorous growth demands of Wall Street, died of a heart attack Thursday at his home in Greenwich, Conn. He was 48.
Kendrick was president and chief executive officer of Asbury Autogroup since November 1999, and before that, president and ceo of DFS Group Ltd., which is majority owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
From 1990 to 1998, he worked at Saks Fifth Avenue, initially as chief financial officer and later as vice chairman and chief operating officer. He was instrumental in the company’s growth, nurturing new-store concepts, and he played a crucial role in the Saks Fifth Avenue initial public offering in 1996 as well as its subsequent merger into Proffitts in 1998, forming Saks Inc.
“Brian was so dynamic as a leader. He forged incredible horizons for this company, and had an amazing energy,” said Christina Johnson, Saks Fifth Avenue’s chairman and ceo. “He could go all day and all night working and taking care of his family. He did it all, and was a great friend.”
“He was sort of a big, friendly bear,” said Saks’s former chairman and ceo Philip Miller. “He was very caring. and was always pushing the business to the next level. It was his idea to create the first Saks Main Street store in Greenwich, after we took over the Woolworth’s there, and to take that concept to other parts of the country. He was a very growth-oriented executive — not just a financial and operations guy. He had personal relationships with the people at Saks and was just a lot of fun to be around — huge energy, huge intellect and huge heart.”
Prior to Saks, Kendrick was the chief financial officer of Maison Blanche/Goudchaux Inc. in Baton Rouge, La. In 1987 and 1988, he was Commissioner of Administration for Louisiana, functioning as chief operating officer during that state’s financial crisis, and successfully put Louisiana back on sound financial footing.
At Asbury, which operates 128 automotive retail franchises around the country and sells, finances and services a diverse range of foreign and domestic automobile brands, Kendrick was passionate about instilling the company with a brand status, much like many fashion retailers try to do. It was his attempt to give Asbury and its regional operations greater distinction and heightened consumer awareness and loyalty.
“Brian was a visionary and his tremendous energy and enthusiasm will be missed,” said Timothy Collins, a director of Asbury and ceo of Ripplewood Holdings LLC, the controlling shareholder of Asbury. Thomas R. Gibson, chairman and co-founder of Asbury, has been named interim ceo until a successor is named.
Kendrick was the recipient of numerous community leadership awards and was a frequent speaker at universities groups. He is survived by his wife, Allison, and children Jonathan, Megan and Taylor. The family will soon be naming a charity to which memorials may be contributed in lieu of flowers. A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Christ Church, 254 East Putnam Avenue, in Greenwich, Conn.