Li'l Cricket Complements Worsley

Sun Capital affiliate acquires 88 c-stores in S.C. in long-expected transaction

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Worsley Operating Corp., an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners Inc., has officially announced that it has acquired the business of Li'l Cricket Food Stores Inc., an operator of 88 convenience stores in South Carolina, a CSP Daily News Flash reported yesterday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Sun Capital acquired Worsley in March for an undisclosed amount. At the time, it told CSP Daily News that the consummation of the long-rumored Li'l Cricket deal was imminent. (Click here to view the previous coverage. Also click here.)

Li'l Cricket, Spartanburg, S.C., sells premium fuel under several major petroleum brands including Valero and Marathon. Worsley operates 122 c-stores in North and South Carolina under the Scotchman, Youngs' and S-E names and sells fuel under several major petroleum brands including BP, Exxon, Shell, Mobil and Sunoco, as well as its proprietary brands Carolina Petro and Anytime Energy.

"This is a wonderful add-on acquisition that complements Worsley's South Carolina footprint and provides us with the opportunity to enhance the value proposition for Li'l Cricket's loyal customers," said Jeffery W. Turpin, president and CFO of Wilmington, N.C.-based Worsley.

"We are pleased to add Li'l Cricket to the Worsley platform," said David A. Blechman, principal of Sun Capital, a private investment firm focused on leveraged buyouts, equity and other investments in market-leading companies that can benefit from its in-house operating professionals and experience. "We expect to take advantage of the economies of scale and increased merchandising opportunities afforded by this transaction as we continue to fill-in our regional platform and build a national operating convenience store group."

Blechman said after the Worsley deal that the desire to expand geographically to the Southeast was meaningful to Sun Capital, and that the firm recognized the two chains—Worsley and Li'l Cricket—as having ideal economies of scale that the investment firm seeks as it evaluates retail properties. He said that from a scale perspective, Sun Capital's ideal acquisitions would be c-store chains in the range of 50 to more than 100 stores; however, in an established region, such as the Midwest, the investment firm would consider smaller retailers in the range of 8 to 10 stores.

"These [Worsley and Li'l Cricket] stores have a good presence in their market and good locations and can benefit from additional capital," Blechman said. He said at the time that Sun Capital did not have a definitive expansion plan in place encompassing either of its two affiliated regions—Midwest and South.

He also said that Sun Capital likes the fact that the acquired companies have solid retail facilities with the potential to be upgraded within profit centers such as foodservice and coffee.

Worsley is a sister affiliate to Village Pantries Holding Corp., an operator of 190 c-stores throughout Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Village Pantry enjoys the second largest market share in Central Indiana and provides fuel services at 139 locations, the company said. In aggregate, affiliates of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Sun Capital own approximately 400 c-stores in five Midwestern and southeastern states, selling 277 million gallons of fuel annually.

Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. served as financial advisor to Li'l Cricket.