CEO offers detail on c-store, heating oil company's end, celebrates its history

PORTLAND, Maine-- Founded in 1887, 123-year-old family business M.W. Sewall & Co. closed its doors on November 14. The assets of the Bath, Maine-based company, which sold fuel, heating oil and propane and operated 11 Clipper Mart convenience stores and car washes, are now being sold.

Philip Sewall, the great grandson of founder Mark W. Sewall and now M.W. Sewall & Co.'s last CEO, pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor counts of the corporation's failure to pay taxes in a timely manner.

Philip Sewall was found guilty today in West Bath District Court on three counts of failure to pay the taxes collected and fined $2,000 on each count, Maine Attorney General William Schneider said last week (see Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage). The court ordered Sewall to pay $50,000 within 12 months in addition to the $225,000 he has already paid to Maine Revenue Services.

All taxes are being paid to Maine and the citizens are protected, however, through an errors and omissions insurance policy Sewall commissioned as CEO, Sewall said in a farewell press statement that attempted to explain the company's demise. The company insurance didn't quite cover all the outstanding monies.

"The agreement reached requires Philip Sewall to personally pay out [the $275,000] to cover the unpaid taxes owed by the company and other assets are available to repay the state through the bankruptcy. The remaining companies of M.W. Sewall [& Co. ] are under new leadership and can move forward. This is a good outcome for the citizens of Maine," said Schneider.

"Our retail company had a beginning based in service," Sewall said in the statement, which also celebrates the company's history. "We delivered coal and ice to homesteaders. Being of service to our community is also how I see our end."

Over an organizational lifetime that touched three centuries, M.W. Sewall & Co. employed hundreds of Bath residents. "What I am most proud of," said Sewall, "is we always operated as part of the community--my family settled here over 200 years ago. While I wish we were still operating today, I'm proud that we managed to close our doors in a way that took care of people as best we could and that serves our obligations to the citizens of Maine and our creditors."

"Philip and his family have been devastated by the whole process," said Tom Davidow, a family business counselor for over two decades. "I'm glad it's over for him. I'm not surprised to find he's managed to take care of so many people and exit the business in a responsible manner--that's the way his father taught him, which is why he asked Philip to replace him when he resigned as a director."

Said Sewall: "While the final days were full of challenges, I did my best for the community, employees and the company, in line with the family value of service just as my father would have wanted."

Separately, a post on the Facebook page of the company the now operates as M.W. Sewall said, "There are a lot of articles in today’s news about M.W. Sewall & Co. and Phillip Sewall. Please remember that M.W. Sewall, as it operates today, was purchased by Ned Sewall in April of 2010 and runs free and clear of any bankruptcy issues."

That entity is a fuel delivery and services company that does not operate any c-stores.

Ned Sewall provided the following timeline:

  • Ned Sewall was president and CEO of M.W. Sewall & Co. from 1992-2007.
  • Ned Sewall left in 2007 after the death of his parents and a shareholder power struggle.
  • Philip Sewall took over as president of M.W. Sewall & Co. in late 2007 and filed bankruptcy in early 2009.
  • In mid 2009 the bankruptcy court judge appointed a trustee to run M.W. Sewall & Co.
  • Shortly after the trustee was appointed, he fired Philip Sewall.
  • Philip Sewall was CEO of M.W. Sewall & Co. for approximately two years. He was never CEO of M. W. Sewall.
  • In April 2010, the divisions of M.W. Sewall & Co. were auctioned off by the trustee. The trustee sold the convenience store division to Energy North and sold the heating division to Ned Sewall.
  • Ned Sewall bought the assets under the name of ES III Inc.
  • Although he is sole owner, to preserve the family name, Ned Sewall choose to operate under the trade name M. W. Sewall (dropping the "& Co.").
  • M.W. Sewall (ES III Inc.) runs free and clear of any past, present and future bankruptcy dealings.