Rent-A-Wreck to move offices to Owings Mills Car rental firm also opens Towson outlet


Rent-A-Wreck of America Inc., the discount used-car rental company, opened a franchise in Towson yesterday and announced plans to shift its corporate headquarters to Owings Mills from Los Angeles.

The outlet, on York Road near the Beltway, is owned by Kenneth L. Blum, an Owings Mills businessman who was named chairman and chief executive of Rent-A-Wreck in July. It will also serve as the company's test market for new services, such as a new 18-passenger van, limousines and pickup trucks, said Gene Blum, a company spokesman and brother of the chairman.

Mr. Blum said the publicly traded company, which had sales of $4.5 million last year but posted a loss of $600,000, is moving its headquarters -- which include the marketing and accounting operations -- to 11460 Cronridge Drive in the Owings Mills Business Center. He said the company's training school for new franchise owners also will be located there.

Mr. Blum said the corporate staff will consist of about 15 people, 10 of whom will be hired over the next year.

Rent-A-Wreck leases used cars largely to local customers who are looking for replacement transportation on occasions such as when their car is undergoing repairs.

"It's not for people going out of town," he said.

Fees vary from franchise to franchise, but Mr. Blum said but they normally range between $19 and $26 a day for up to 75 or 100 miles.

He said the headquarters was being moved because the new chairman lives in the area. Also, 50 percent of the company's nearly 400 franchises are located on the East Coast, he said. The Towson franchise brings the company's Baltimore-area locations to five.

Rent-A-Wreck was founded in 1969 in Hollywood by a used-car salesman. The tongue-in-cheek name evolved after an actress who liked to rent used cars wrote a check to "Rent-A-Wreck" as a joke.

Kenneth Blum founded United HealthCare Inc. in 1974 and headed that company until he sold it in 1990. Since then, he has been a management consultant to various businesses.

He attended Johns Hopkins University and received a master of business administration degree from Loyola College in 1979.

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