Haslams Buy CVC's Stake in Pilot Flying J

Private-equity firms exits partnership with truckstop company

Pilot Flying J Cleveland Browns Jimmy Haslam CVC

Jimmy Haslam

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Pilot Flying J CEO James Haslam and his family have acquired all of private-equity firm CVC Capital Partners Ltd.’s shares in the truckstop company, the largest operator in the United States, reported The Wall Street Journal.

The company is one of the largest private companies in the United States. Haslam, the son of the founder, is a member of one of Tennessee’s wealthiest families and owns the Cleveland Browns football team. His brother Bill Haslam is governor of Tennessee. Their father started the company in 1958 with a single gas station.

CVC, one of Europe’s biggest private-equity firms, first teamed up with Haslam in 2008, when it bought a 47.5% stake in Pilot Travel Centers, as Marathon Oil Corp. sold its stake in the company, said the report. In 2010, Pilot Travel Centers bought rival Flying J Inc.

“Over the years, Pilot, now Pilot Flying J, has had multiple partnerships which began with the expectation of the partner exiting at some point," a company spokesperson told CSP Daily News. "That time has come in Pilot Flying J's partnership with CVC, which has been a very satisfying relationship since 2008."

Pilot Flying J has spent considerable time in the spotlight in recent years, not only because of the Cleveland Browns.

Ten former employees have pleaded guilty to a scheme to defraud customers over diesel fuel rebates since federal agents raided Pilot Flying J's headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., in April 2013. Haslam has not been charged with any crime.

Pilot Flying J agreed to pay $92 million in fines and accept responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees while the government agreed not to prosecute the company. The agreement required Pilot Flying J to comply with several conditions, including cooperation in the investigation of people who may have been involved in the fraud. It did not protect any individual from prosecution.

Most of the lawsuits against Pilot Flying J were resolved by a class-action settlement, in which the company agreed to pay out nearly $85 million to 5,500 customers.

In December 2013, CVC announced that it would sell its stake in Pilot, saying the decision was unrelated to the fuel rebate scandal.

Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America, has more than 650 retail locations.

Part of CSP's 2015 Convenience Top 101 retailers