Friday, November 24, 2017
News Roundup

Epilogue: Lavish yet humble, Stu Arnold built Auto Trader empire

RECOMMENDED READING


From his living room table, Stuart Arnold pasted Polaroid photos and typewritten ads onto pages that became the Auto Trader magazine.

In a few years, the idea that began in Mr. Arnold's 600-square foot St. Pete Beach apartment flourished into an empire of photo classified magazines that spanned 25 markets across the United States.

"As I get older, I see the door at the end of the tunnel," Mr. Arnold told the Tampa Bay Times in 1992. "You want to leave something behind you. There's an excitement seeing something grow."

On Sept. 11, Mr. Arnold died of a heart attack in his Tierra Verde home. He was 82.

To many, Mr. Arnold was known as a successful businessman who lived lavishly, often going on yacht excursions or buying sports cars, a Learjet, and even a one-man submarine.

But to his family, Mr. Arnold was a humble man with a penchant for pizza who wanted to share his good fortune with loved ones.

"You would never know he had money unless somebody told you," said his son, Stuart Arnold III. "He was just a normal guy. He never flaunted anything. He was just inclusive and was hoping everybody had a good time."

Mr. Arnold was born on Dec. 9, 1934 in the Bronx, N.Y. When he didn't show interest in his grades, his parents sent him to boarding school at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg.

"It didn't really help much," Mr. Arnold told Florida Trend in 1996. "And then I went on to Duke and majored in journalism. It was a disaster. I couldn't take anything seriously."

Sign up for News At Noon

The latest headlines with your lunch.

After several editing positions at newspapers and magazines in California and New York, Mr. Arnold moved to Florida in 1973 after divorcing the mother of his two children, Bonnie and Stuart.

According to Florida Trend, he applied for an advertising position at the then-St. Petersburg Times. After waiting about a half hour for his interview, he grew impatient and walked out. Soon after that, he started the Auto Trader.

The younger Arnold, then a teenager, moved with his father to Florida and helped in the new venture. He took Polaroid photos of cars for sale and called owners to ask if they wanted to run an ad for just $4. The magazines were sold near the checkout of convenience stores and supermarkets.

"Everybody said yes," Arnold said. "It just kept growing and growing."

Fifteen years later, Auto Trader had sold 17 franchises and published 72 editions of its classified magazines. The first franchise was sold to Ben Schmidt in Cincinnati for $2,000. He later sold it for $7 million. Trader employed 750 people in Florida, with 480 of them in Clearwater.

"He was just a driven guy," said Schmidt, who later moved near St. Pete Beach and considered Mr. Arnold his best friend. "He was truly a self-made man."

In 1988, Mr. Arnold sold Trader Publications to Cox Enterprises, an Atlanta-based media chain. Mr. Arnold didn't disclose the selling price, but told the Tampa Bay Times it was an offer he couldn't refuse.

Mr. Arnold later operated CPN television studios in Clearwater, the largest independent studio in Tampa Bay at the time. When he couldn't turn a profit, he sold the studio to Hubbard Broadcasting in 1997.

Mr. Arnold tried to relax after the end of CPN. He lived in Clearwater and took trips to New England every summer, traveled to Europe and vacationed at properties he owned in Key West and Las Vegas.

He owned a Ferrari, a Lotus, and a Learjet. But above all, Arnold loved his 103-foot yacht, the Ivory Lady. Just before his death on Sept. 11 after Hurricane Irma charged through Tampa Bay, Mr. Arnold hopped on board, checked the boat for any damage, and moved it closer to the dock.

Mr. Arnold loved to spend time with loved ones and often took them on trips.

"He would just take us places," said his daughter, Bonnie Arnold. "He'd say to me, 'Hey Bonnie, want to go to lunch?' Next thing, we're in the Learjet and we're going to Key West for lunch."

When the shuttle Discovery took off from Cape Canaveral in 1998, Mr. Arnold and several friends watched the launch from his Learjet at 50,000 feet.

"I think he just touched many, many people's lives with a lot of good memories," said Arnold, his son.

Mr. Arnold was also known for his love of pizza. He ate slices every week. His favorite: plain cheese on thin crust.

"He was trim and fit and all that but he loved his pizza like that was the only thing that was available," said Isaac Llanes, Bonnie's boyfriend.

Every Friday, Mr. Arnold met with Schmidt and a few others to eat pizza at Tony & Nello's in Tierra Verde. In recent days, Schmidt, 83, said he and Mr. Arnold joked around about getting older.

Bonnie, Mr. Arnold's daughter, said she finds comfort in knowing her father lived a full life.

"It was always an adventure," she said. "The best way to put it: you never knew exactly what you were going to do, but there was always pizza involved."

Information from a 1996 article by Florida Trend was used in this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] Follow @lauracmorel.

 
Comments
Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

By BOB PUTNAMCLEARWATER — The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot has long been a fixture on Jon Mott’s sporting calendar. Not even a 103-degree fever Tuesday could keep him away from the event, in its 39th year. Mott, a record four-time 10k champion, added ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

TAMPA — In the jubilant moments after a Bucs win, Dirk Koetter will sometimes ask for a game-used ball from his equipment staff, hold it high in the locker room and present it to the player who was most crucial to the victory.NFL players can ask for ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

 
Updated: 7 hours ago

Updated: 7 hours ago
Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

Woman killed in Largo motorcycle crash could ‘out-game any dude’

LARGO — Sydney Pender, 27, loved riding her motorcycle, even though she knew the dangers. Three years ago, her friend said, a delivery truck hit her. But she kept riding. On Thanksgiving, it was a crash with a taxi cab that killed her.Pender, a St. P...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Valrico intersection closed after car-sized hole opens in road

VALRICO — A hole the size of a vehicle opened up beneath the intersection of Nature’s Way Boulevard and Elm Grove Lane, Hillsborough officials said.The cause of the depression is unclear, but the intersection was blocked off to traffic.Hillsborough C...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Published: 11/23/17

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Published: 11/23/17
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Published: 11/23/17