Wawa Execs Show Support for JOBS Act

Will enable privately held companies to have flexibility to focus on growth

Christopher Gheysens

WAWA, Pa. -- Wawa Inc.'s president and CEO-elect Christopher T. Gheysens joined U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) at a Wawa convenience store in Delaware on Tuesday to mark President Obama's expected signing of a law sent to his desk that makes it easier for private firms like Wawa to stay exempt from government financial rules that apply to public companies, reported Philly.com.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS) Act is a package of bills cutting what sponsors call onerous business regulations, some of which were designed to protect investors following the Enron scandal of the early 2000s.

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Carper joined to sponsor one bill in the package, the Private Company Flexibility & Growth Act, which would lift the current limit on how many shareholders a company has to have, to 2,000, from today's 500, before it must report detailed financial data to the public and the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

The 600-store Wawa chain lobbied for the bill last year, the report said.

Gheysens, who until January 2012 served solely as the company's CFO, is scheduled to take over as head of Wawa when Howard Stoeckel retires at the end of this year.

He told a Senate hearing last fall that private companies like Wawa "can focus on long-term results," like expanding in Florida, instead of cutting short-term costs to satisfy "Wall Street" expectations (see Related Content below for previous CSP Daily Newscoverage).

Under current law, as the number of its private shareholders grows, Wawa would someday "be required to choose between becoming a public reporting company" or spending "as much as $40 million" on a reorganization to avoid having to go public, he testified.

Gheysens told Philly.com that Wawa already tells shareholders and members of its employee stock options program its annual sales, profits, compensation and owner dividends; it does not want to have to pay for additional quarterly accounting, certification and compliance.

"This legislation will help Wawa continue to grow and expand in the future, as it will enable privately held companies to have the flexibility needed to focus on growth, add jobs and remain strong economic drivers in their communities," Stoeckel said in a press statement issued by Carper. "We appreciate Senator Carper's efforts to design and support this bill as it will ultimately enable Wawa to continue to have a positive impact in Delaware through opening new stores and building strong community partnerships."

Click here to read the full press release.