LAS VEGAS — The October acquisition of Western Funding Inc. by former Harbor Structured Finance executives Frederick and Katherine Cooper and Philip D. Nick came as a surprise to many dealers, some of whom first partnered with the 48-year-old finance company decades ago. New details provided by the acquiring parties, however, show that a deal had been in the works for some time.

The Coopers and Nick say they first approached Fred Cope, who founded WFI along with his wife, Irene, in 1962, with a letter of intent to acquire the company in 1993.

“Although the LOI met and exceeded the Cope family’s terms,” the executives wrote in a prepared statement, “Mr. Cope chose to keep the company out of a sense of personal commitment to the firm he and Mrs. Cope founded.”

WFI continued to grow under the leadership of outgoing CEO Dwight Cope, the founders’ son, after Fred Cope died in 2001. The company established regional offices across the nation and stayed true to its commitment to subprime car buyers and the dealers that serve them.

The executives said they will keep the company in Las Vegas and continue its tradition of family ownership while “utilizing contemporary best practices and technology, as well as honoring its past achievements and culture.”

“Katherine, Phil and I are thrilled at the prospect of growing the Western brand,” Frederick Cooper said. “It’s recognized as an icon in the subprime auto industry for good reason, and we will stay true to the spirit of the innovator who started this tremendous company.”