The Hotard story began in 1935 when Callen Hotard’s grandfather started providing line-haul service from Reserve, La. to New Orleans. Soon, both of his sons came on, eventually splitting the company into two separate entities, both operating under the Hotard name, and moving the operations to New Orleans permanently in the 1960s.
That is only the beginning, though, with the company undergoing plenty of changes over the years, including re-branding one of the Hotard operations to Premier Motorcoach in 1996; the selling of Hotard Coaches — the company started in 1935 — to Greyhound in 1999; the purchase and rebranding of Premier to Calco Travel in 2001, and eventually, the re-purchase of the original Hotard Coaches back from Greyhound in 2007.
In 2009, Hotard and his wife, Colleen, brought Calco and Hotard Coaches together as one company, Calco Travel/Hotard Coaches. In July 2012, the Hotards sold both entities to an investment group AAA Holdings, in a deal that included Mesa, Ariz.-based All Aboard America and its president, Jack Wigley, and eventually, merged Calco into Hotard Coaches to form one legal entity.
“What me and Jack did was sell our companies and bought stock in the new parent company, so we maintained some level of ownership, and remained on as CEOs of our respective companies,” explains Hotard.
The idea to embark on this unique deal was formulated in 2010, with Hotard and Wigley both coming to the realization neither had a succession plan, and even more importantly, no family interested in taking over the business.
“With me, I have children that just don’t have the interest in the motorcoach business like I did,” says Hotard. “I realized if I waited until I’m older, it would be more difficult because the company would probably not be worth as much on the market because I wanted out.”
With both companies at their peak, Hotard and Wigley began quietly weighing their options, essentially bringing their separate companies to market as a single entity, before selecting an investment company.
“We were able to obtain financial security for us and our families, yet still remain active in the business and the industry,” says Hotard of the transaction. “I have not had a single day of regret, and I know Jack feels the same way.”
Aside from being able to continue running his operation, Hotard said the relationship works well because it gives him and Wigley the chance to share ideas, issues, and challenges with each other and work together to make decisions based on what’s best for the company as a whole.
Throughout the entire history of the company, the Hotard name has been a prominent pillar of the New Orleans community, taking part in multiple charity events, working with the New Orleans Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, and providing transportation for schools throughout the area.
“It is not just myself or our management team participating, but folks throughout our organization that participate in activities throughout our community,” says Hotard. “We really take a special interest in being involved with our customer base and continuing to foster those relationships at all times, not just when we are providing their transportation.”
Hotard’s range of business is quite large, with some of its newer contracts including providing transportation to workers in the oil industry and providing passenger service for Carnival Cruise Lines customers from Baton Rouge, La. and Ocean Springs, Miss. to the port in New Orleans.
“This new service will pick customers up and bring them to the port, so they won’t have to deal with the hassle of driving to New Orleans and paying for parking,” explains Hotard. “Hopefully, they will find the service more convenient and it will do well for us.”
Hotard says his operation’s lasting success is a testament to the strength of his team.
“One of the things that is very important to a company like ours is the quality and capabilities of the people we have associated with,” explains Hotard. “Ultimately, we are in the people business, and without the quality team, we just can’t achieve success.”