Retiring Michigan car dealership owner thanks employees in cash

Howard Cooper, 83, recently sold his Ann Arbor, Michigan, car dealership. The business will change hands this month — Ohio-based Germain Motor Co. purchased the Howard Cooper Import Center — with Cooper maintaining an office at the dealership "until he's ready to move on."

While Cooper insisted on employee retention as part of the deal, he still wanted to thank his employees for his rewarding 47-year career.

"My employees are very important to me and the reason for my success," Cooper told in April. "I know of a couple of buyers who would have paid more, but taking care of my employees was important to me."

On a recent Wednesday morning, all 89 of Cooper's employees were gifted with $1,000 for each year of service to the dealership.

Mechanic Bob Jenkins, who has worked at the dealership for 26 years, received $26,000.

"I was shocked," Jenkins told "You just don't expect something like that."

"The lady behind me had tears running down her face," Sandy Reagan, a bookkeeper at the dealership for 46 years, said. "I sat next to a person who drives the parts van and he's been here almost 28 years. He doesn't make a ton of money, but he got almost $28,000. I watched his face and he just said, "Oh, my God.'"

General Manager George Davis told Michigan Radio that while the amount of money surprised employees, the act of generosity didn't:

"There's just not a lot of people like Howard, so not all are going to think this way. I think in one of the papers I read about how the CEOs walk away with a big bonus and a golden parachute and the troops get nothing. Howard never acted that way when he owned the business, and surely didn't act that way when he sold the business," Davis said.

"I wanted to thank my employees and that was a way I could do it," Cooper said of the surprise cheques that were met with a standing ovation. "I hope it makes a difference in their lives like they have made in mine."