HARTSVILLE, S.C. — West Oil Inc. has sold 25 Markette convenience stores and one Lotto Land c-store in South Carolina to FR Refuel LLC, a portfolio company of First Reserve, a global private-equity investment firm exclusively focused on energy. After more than 50 years in operation, shareholders decided to exit the convenience-store business to diversify their wealth and focus on other business ventures.
The transaction also includes two car-wash properties and three vacant lots.
West’s stores are mostly in northeastern South Carolina and are modern, well-maintained facilities. Fourteen of the stores sell Shell-branded motor fuels and 12 stores carry the company’s proprietary West Oil fuel brand. The stores offer a full array of convenience merchandise, and six stores have proprietary deli offerings.
As part of the transaction, FR Refuel is acquiring the fee simple interest in 25 of the stores and a leasehold interest in the remaining property.
West Oil traces its roots back to 1964, when Lee West founded the company in Hartsville, S.C. In 1973, West’s son, Alexander West Sr., joined the company, assisting his father in opening their first retail store in Hartsville that same year. The company grew to 15 stores when Alexander “Lex” West Jr. joined the family business in 1989. Lex’s partner, Reginald “Bunky” Joyce III, joined the company in 1993, and in 2003, they finalized a buyout from Alexander West Sr.
Under the leadership of Lex West, the company’s current president, and Bunky Joyce, vice president, the company continued to grow its Markette c-store chain while also expanding and diversifying its product and service offerings. In 2009, the company introduced its West Oil fuel brand to diversify its supply sources, and the West Oil branded sites are now among the highest-performing locations, the company said.
In addition to its petroleum marketing operations, West Oil also owns a propane distribution business, multiple wine and spirits shops and a mini storage business, and it owns and develops other real estate.
“It was not an easy decision to sell a family-run business of 40 years,” Lex West said. “My grandfather and father built a strong foundation for the growth of the Markette brand. That growth would not have been possible without our outstanding employees and loyal customers. Bunky and I wanted to ensure that the new owners valued the family-oriented culture of Markette and upheld the values of excellence in customer service and commitment to community service.”
Matrix Capital Markets Group Inc., Richmond, Va., provided merger and acquisition advisory services to West Oil, which included valuation advisory, marketing the business through a confidential, structured sale process and negotiation of the transaction.
“The West family and Bunky have built an incredible company,” said Cedric Fortemps, co-head of Matrix’s Downstream Energy & Convenience Retail Group. “[It was a] difficult decision to exit this third-generation business. … [The buyer] will continue to run the business in a manner consistent with the values that guided them for so many years.”
In February, Stamford, Conn.-based First Reserve created a retail fuel distribution investment platform through the acquisition of Refuel Inc., a Charleston, S.C.-based retail fuel distribution and c-store chain. As its first expansion acquisition for the Refuel brand, First Reserve agreed to acquire West Oil.