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Truck stop magnates Loves, Haslam make Forbes richest list

A debt recapitalization helped Jimmy Haslam get the extra cash to buy the Cleveland Browns. (The Trucker file photo)

By JACK HUMPHREVILLE
The Trucker News Services

10/12/2012

Operating truck stops is a great business as demonstrated by the arrival of Tom and Judy Love and Jimmy Haslam to the Forbes 400, The Richest People in America.

The Loves’ net worth, estimated to be $3.5 billion (rank No. 113), is derived from Loves Travel Stops and Country Stores, a conservatively-run $17 billion Oklahoma-based company with almost 300 company owned locations in 39 states.  

Haslam’s net worth of $1.2 billion (No.360) is based on his 21 percent interest in Pilot Flying J, a $30 billion operation that sells nine billion gallons of petroleum a year through over 339 locations. This implies a $6 billion value for the nation’s largest truck stop operator, of which the extended Haslam family, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, owns 59 percent, worth $3.5 billion.

Interestingly, both companies started from single locations, Pilot in 1958 in Gate City, Va., and Loves in 1964 in Watonga, Okla.

But while Love’s was growing primarily by opening new company owned locations, Knoxville based Pilot was wheeling and dealing. 

In 2001, Pilot and Marathon Oil merged their operations to form Pilot Travel Centers.

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In 2003, Pilot acquired Williams Travel Centers.

In 2008, the Haslams repurchased Marathon’s 50 percent interest and simultaneously sold a 47.5 percent stake to CVC Capital Partners, a London, England, based investment fund.  In 2010, Pilot pounced on a bankrupt Flying J, acquiring its truck stop locations.

And now, in 2012, Pilot is engaged in a complicated debt recapitalization, allowing the Haslam family to increase its equity ownership and provide Jimmy Haslam with the extra cash required to purchase the NFL’s Cleveland Browns for a rumored $1 billion.

Whatever their avenues to success from humble beginnings, the business community agrees that both family controlled companies succeeded because they are well managed organizations, have quality employees and provide value added, price competitive, customer-oriented services to the trucking community.

Jack Humpreville can be reached at news@thetrucker.com.