A former of employee of a used car dealership tied to the late Bud Billings recalls his time with Billings as a rollercoaster of shady deals and high pressure collections.
He saw his former boss Ronald “Ronnie” Phillips, the owner of Beach Autos, Inc, forced out of the dealership by Billings to a new partner, who he claims was Henry “Cab” Tice.
Beach Autos, Inc. was formed in January 2002 with the late Melanie Billings as the registered agent (P0010964 ). In 2003, Terry Clement was named president and Ms. Billings remained the VP, Sec. And Treas (Beach 2003 ). In 2004, Clement, who had worked for several dealership in Car City, was gone–Melanie returned as President and the daughter Ashley Billings became vice president and Byrd “Bud” Billings was named the Sec (Beach 2004).
In 2005, Melanie replaced Bud as the Sec (Beach 2005 ). Later that year, Ronald and Patricia Phillips took over as the registered agent and officers. In documents filed the Escambia County Clerk of Courts, Beach Auto’s was sold to the Phillips by Melanie Brock (Billings) and Worldco Financial Services financed the floor inventory and lot sales (Beach 2005 A ). In February 2007, Ronnie Phillips signed a promissory note with Worldco for $27,000 and to be paid back in monthly installments of $2400 each. See UCC filings: Beach 1, Beach 2.
Phillips defaulted on the loan and Worldco filed a civil suit (2007 CA002990) against the Phillips, Beach Auto and Edward Horton. At the time, Worldco claimed Beach Auto owed the company $55,576.25 on the general agreement (floor plan) and $14,085.85 on the promissory note. The suit ended in a judgment against Phillips for $69,662.10. (2008037992-1 )
The employee who call the IN offices from Mississippi says that he believes Phillips left not on the medical leave that he said, but on knowing that he would soon be squeezed out of the dealership.
“I think what happened is that Ronnie ripped all the money he could (out of the business) and got out of there before things got bad,” says the former employee.
He remembers Billings and Tice as both ruthless businessmen who were out to make a buck at any cost. However, we could find no record that Tice actually took over the Beach Autos dealership.
“(Before Ronnie left) Bud called him one day and said he had to fire me or he was going to shut the place down,” he says. “Ronnie told me I need you more than (Bud), so he didn’t do anything. Bud called me an hour after that and said, ‘I don’t think I’ve told you what a good job you are doing.’ He set all of that up before Cab ended up (taking over).”
Even after Billings had said he was retired from the business, he still was running the shots. “The whole retiring thing I never bought. Bud was very active. He ran it all. He was the one you answered to; he just wouldn’t put it in his name. He would set you up and barely let you hold on.”
He also recalls Billings taking cars off the lot that were not his and selling them.
“He came in while repossessed and knowingly took the cars off the lot that weren’t his,” he says. “But technically, because they were repossessed, (law enforcement) couldn’t do anything about it.”
When he heard of the possible Tice tie with the murder of Bud and Melanie Billings, he immediately thought of the Beach dealership.
“From my understanding is that Cab tried to split from Bud and there was $200,000 worth of cars that he took,” he says.
He says when the business closed there were many unpaid debts—particularly warranties.
“Anything outstanding (wasn’t paid),” he says. “It may have been 30, 40, 50 warranties that never got paid.”