What's Next for GPM?

Interim CEO talks exec change, next steps; plans "bigger circles" with acquisitions

By 
Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

RICHMOND, Va. -- It has been a hectic week for David Eisenberg. But the man who has served on GPM Investments LLC's board for seven years, and who was announced yesterday as the company's interim CEO, took a few minutes out from a large vendor meeting to talk to CSP Daily News about what's next.

The changeover from Dave McComas, who has held the post for about eight years, came on the heels of an announcement that GPMthe owner of the Fas Mart and Shore Stop convenience store chainshad secured a $46 million senior secured credit facility. "After the refinancing, [image-nocss] the board in Israel thought it would be best just to change the CEO's position at this time," Eisenberg said. "Mr. McComas, of course, did a fantastic job over the years, but they still felt that it was time for a change in leadership."

McComas told CSP Daily News earlier this week that he is moving on to other projects, which he is "trying to decide about."

(Click here to read yesterday's coverage.)

Eisenberg (pictured) has been on the board since March 2003, when Fas Mart Convenience Stores were acquired by GPM and came out of bankruptcy. "So I also helped select the people who are in senior management, so I'm pretty satisfied with everybody," he said, adding that there might be subtle structural changes, but "nothing dramatic."

He formerly served as company advisor and former CEO of Peoples Drug Stores and Chief Auto Parts. He also formerly worked for H.I.G. Capital. Bayside Capital Inc., which provided the $46 million credit facility to GPM, is a division of H.I.G., although the connection is what Eisenberg calls "a real coincidence."

Eisenberg will serve as chair of the CEO search committee, with no particular timeframe in mind.

As for the financing, Eisenberg clarified that the $46 million replaces a "Draconian position" the company had with Wachovia and Wells Fargo banks. Over the past 18 months, the company's "special assets group" classification has been suppressive, according to Eisenberg. "That's why we're so excited about getting out of the special assets group, because it will give us more opportunities to grow, change the business and do what we think is necessary with the new funds that we have.... We'll have more flexibility because the handcuffs are much less restrictive than they were in the past."

Eisenberg said the company has no big plans for the rest of this year, but added, "Hopefully we'll be planning some tuck-in, small acquisitions in 2011. We'll be opportunists, because we will have the flexibility to make some acquisitions on smaller companies in the marketplace where we exist. So in other words, [we'll] just draw bigger circles."

Meanwhile, Eisenberg is hoping for "business as usual." In Richmond, Va., the company was in the midst of presenting its marketing plan to 80 vendors. "It's no different than anybody else's plan, I'm sure: Increase sales, get better margins and reduce expensesjust like any other business... No 'hail Marys' here, just serious blocking and tackling. That's the way I'd approach the business," he said.

GPM operates 213 convenience stores and supplies more than 115 independent dealers in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Tennessee.