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Is Couche-Tard’s Ownership in Jeopardy?

Bouchard fears founders will lose control of global c-store chain

LAVAL, Quebec -- Alain Bouchard, co-founder and chairman of Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., said the future of the global convenience-store company may be in jeopardy, according to a report by The Globe and Mail.

Expressing doubts that he and the company's three other founders will be able to maintain control of the retailer as the expiration of their special stock rights nears, Bouchard told the newspaper following Couche-Tard's annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday, "There aren't a lot of solutions here" to maintain the founders' ownership. "We've tried. I'm not optimistic.”

Bouchard and co-founders Richard Fortin, Real Plourde and Jacques D'Amours control Couche-Tard through a special class of multiple voting shares that carry 10 votes each. Under a sunset clause written in 1995, those special voting rights were set to expire in 2021 when the youngest of the founders, D'Amours, will turn 65. The other founders are older.

At last year’s shareholder meeting, Bouchard said he thought that a solution could be found over the next five years to protect the chain from the threat of a hostile takeover.

Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard's network consists of nearly 9,500 c-stores in North America, including more than 7,550 stores under the Circle K, Couche-Tard, Corner Store and other banners. Its North American network consists of 16 business units, including 12 in the United States covering 42 states, and four in Canada covering all 10 provinces.

In Europe, Couche-Tard operates a broad retail network across Scandinavia, Ireland, Poland, the Baltic states and Russia through 10 business units. It includes about 2,750 stores.

In addition, licensees operate close to 1,700 c-stores under the Circle K banner in 17 other countries and territories worldwide (Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Guam, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam), which brings the total network to nearly 14,000 stores.

Watch for more details on CSP Daily News.

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