Texas entrepreneur Tony Aquila is the Founder, Former Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Solera Holdings, a company bringing digital transformation to the automobile insurance industry. He's what you'd call a serial entrepreneur, with over 100 patents to his name and having made over 70 transactions worth $15 billion.
However, Aquila had humble beginnings. Born in Richmond, California to an immigrant and military family, Aquila spent his teenage years working at his uncle's auto body shop. He swept the floors, replaced windshields, and did odd jobs around the place to get by. While not evident to him then, this seemingly insignificant period of his life would end up informing his most successful ventures.
In 2014, Solera announced the acquisition of Pittsburgh Glass Works, expanding the reach of Aquila's products and services by creating the only automotive repair and claims management platform in the U.S. that spans collision claims, mechanical repair, glass claims, and parts exchange.
"Since our founding in 2005, Solera has steadily increased value for our customers by consistently making the organic and inorganic investments required to build an unrivaled automotive technology platform across collision; service, maintenance, and repair; glass; and parts," said Aquila, following the acquisition.
As Solera grew, it seemed that Aquila's dream of revolutionizing automobile insurance was coming true. However, in 2015 everything began to change when private equity firm Vista Equity Partners agreed to acquire the company for $6.5 billion.
At the time, Solera's website claimed that its client list included the ten largest insurance companies in the U.S. and Europe, making it an attractive investment. The company houses brands like Audatex, CarweB, and AUTOonline, serving customers that include car insurance companies, collision repair facilities, and independent assessors. Tesla Motors also uses Solera's software to process collision-repair estimates and insurance claims at its collision-repair centers.
In 2015, Vista's deal was part of the company's strategic initiative, and Aquila was behind the move. "This transaction delivers immediate compelling value to our stockholders and represents a pivotal milestone for Solera in partnering with Vista," he said in a statement.
However, it wasn't long before the partnership soured.
Aquila may have founded the company in 2005, but his rocky relationship with its private equity owner caused significant changes at the firm.
In May 2019, the company announced that former DigitalGlobe CEO Jeff Tarr was succeeding Aquila as Solera's new CEO. The founder praised Tarr's hiring and claimed to have left Solera voluntarily. In September, Aquila filed a lawsuit with the Delaware state court against Solera Global Holding Corp. and Solera Global Holding, accusing the company of refusing to honor its obligations to pay him for his vested stock options worth over $100 million.
According to Aquila, things began to go downhill with the acquisition by Vista Equity. He alleged that the private equity firm failed to deliver on its promises and impaired the company's growth, which led the entrepreneur to his breaking point. He made an offer in a bid to repurchase Solera, but when it was denied he decided to leave the company he created.
While he hoped to gain $100 million from the lawsuit, Vista Equity estimated that for Aquila's 75,443 vested options, he was entitled to $1,000.
Despite this, Aquila hasn't been deterred.
The California native formed AFV Partners on the Fourth of July, 2019, as a long-term permanent capital investor. AFV Partners invests in long-term mission-critical software and data businesses. Today it's headquartered in Argyle, Texas, with offices in Jackson Hole and Zurich.
This year, AFV acquired Aircraft Performance Group, a leading global provider of proprietary aircraft solutions, and UK-based RocketRoute, a leading global aviation services company.
These are just desserts for the executive, who continues to make dreams come true. "That's the difference between the dreamers and the achievers," said Aquila in 2014. "The dreamers are dreaming while they're running from the boogie man. The achievers are those of us running at him."