Mergers & Acquisitions

SQRL Agrees to Sell Its Convenience Stores

Company previously signed master lease on 210 former Mountain Express gas stations, convenience stores; currently has about 180 c-stores open, CFO says
SQRL convenience store
Photograph courtesy of SQRL

SQRL Holdings has agreed to sell its convenience stores under SQRL Service Stations LLC to Gas Hub Investments LLC, SQRL CFO James Irvine told CSP Daily News. Irvine said the deal was “still very much in motion” and there was little he could disclose as of Thursday afternoon.

“We have entered into an agreement for the sale,” he said. “This week, we’re just working extremely hard to iron that whole thing out and try to get it across the finish line.”

Irvine said they are considering the sale because SQRL has had a relationship with the owners of Gas Hub Investments LLC for some time, and they have a very good track record in the space.

“It’d be an advantageous acquisition for all parties involved,” Irvine said.

SQRL had faced significant “liquidity issues” over the past several months, and the potential sale is “an effort to ameliorate this situation for all stakeholders,” according to a report by C-StoreDive and a memo posted on Facebook. Irvine would not confirm the existence of the memo or that the company was having liquidity issues to CSP Daily News.

Gas Hub Investments is a business that started in February and is owned by Jamal Hizam, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office. Irvine said it was too early to talk about any potential changes to SQRL Holdings or its leadership in light of the acquisition.

The acquisition news follows several recent transitions for the Little Rock, Arkansas-based company. In September 2023, SQRL signed a master lease on 210 former Mountain Express gas stations and convenience stores. Later, the Arkansas Business reported SQRL laid off as many as 400 employees and its founder and CEO Blake Smith stepped away as CEO for health reasons and was replaced by Adam Lusthaus.

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division also confirmed to CSP Daily News on Wednesday that “currently, there is an open case we cannot discuss to protect the integrity of the investigation,” involving SQRL. The DOL said there are two concluded 2023 cases filed with the Wage and Hour Division on SQRL, one of which $176 in back wages owed were paid. Irvine told CSP that he wasn’t aware of the current investigation.

Mountain Express Acquisition

After signing a master lease on 210 former Mountain Express gas stations and convenience stores in September 2023, SQRL Service Stations and Blue Owl Capital said they expected all of the locations to be back up and running within the next three months. SQRL also intends to fully remodel and rebrand all locations, the company said at the time.

In October, SQRL Holdings—a food and fuel retailer with more than 400 convenience stores in 14 states—acquired 210 c-stores in several states. Real-estate investment trust (REIT) Blue Owl Capital, New York, sold the locations, formerly leased to Mountain Express Oil, to SQRL. The companies did not disclose the transaction price.

A sampling by Arkansas Business of 28 SQRL locations visited in central, western and northern Arkansas in late February found that 23 were closed and only two had functioning fuel pumps, the news outlet said. Several social media reports mention SQRL stores near them that closed or have never opened.

When asked how many SQRL stores were in operation, Irvine told CSP Daily News about 180 stores are open now. The stores SQRL inherited from Mountain Express/Blue Owl were a very mixed bag, he said.

“While we were focusing on those stores, it made sense to shut down some of our legacy stores that weren’t as high producing,” he said. “There’ve been some openings and closings, but we’ve been flipping more stores this week as we’re gearing up for this potential sale.”

Irvine said he is excited and optimistic about the future of the company, and their mission remains the same: “To continue to deliver value to our customers, our employees and our landlords.”

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