A former Royal Flying Corps airman, Captain Harold Rolfe Owen sustained serious injuries in a plane crash during the First World War. After a lengthy period of recovery back in England, he began work in the motor industry with the racing driver Jack Barclay.
Success in his new career enabled him to establish his own Mayfair car dealership, H.R. Owen, in 1932. The new company and Jack Barclay Limited would continue to enjoy a friendly relationship in the ensuing decades, until in 2000 Jack Barclay became part of the present-day H.R. Owen group.
Throughout the 1930s, H.R. Owen acquired a reputation for honest dealing and the quality of its vehicles, helped by close links to Rolls-Royce (who at that time owned Bentley). The onset of the Second World War, however, brought an abrupt halt to the sale of motor cars for personal use, as manufacturers devoted their expertise to the war effort. H.R. Owen was closed down for the duration of the conflict, and the business was put up for sale after its founder died on tank maneuvers in 1940.
The end of the war saw the business purchased by Fritz Swain, whose shrewd management saw the company expand significantly in the improving economic conditions of the 1950s and 1960s. H.R. Owen purchased a number of other motor retailers in west London during this period, and its growth drew the attention of Heron International, which acquired the business in 1970.
After being bought by Malaya Group in 1994, the merged business adopted the name of H.R. Owen Plc in 1997. The year of the new millennium saw Jack Barclay added to the ever-increasing number of the group’s franchises. During the following year, the opening of a north-west London aftersales "supersite" made it easier to provide repair and maintenance functions for Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Rolls-Royce owners.
Traditionally a London-based business, H.R. Owen now has operations in Cheltenham, Pangbourne (Berkshire), Byfleet (Surrey), St. Albans (Hertfordshire), and Stockport (Greater Manchester). Other notable developments for the company have been becoming the official UK dealer for Bugatti and opening the world’s first Ferrari "Atelier" in Knightsbridge.
In September 2013, H.R. Owen was the subject of a successful takeover by Philippine investment group Berjaya Group who become the majority shareholders.
Under the leadership of CEO Ken Choo, H.R. Owen continues its focus on customer service in the field of luxury and supercar retail, whilst extending the customer offering on new business areas including H.R. Owen Classic Cars, H.R. Owen Insurance Services, Luxury Hire and Chauffeur Drive. In 2014 revenue was up to £400 million.