BP’s Midwest Shuffle

Petroleum suppliers and c-store operators Ricker Oil Co., of Anderson, Ind., and Atlas Oil Co., of Taylor, Mich., were the big winners last month as part of BP’s plan to sell off its Midwest retail assets. 
Ricker Oil President Jay Ricker, who owns and operates 29 Ricker’s Convenience Stores throughout Indiana, said he more than doubled the size of his chain by closing on a deal to acquire 32 BP-operated or supplied stores in the Indianapolis market on Oct. 27. 
Atlas Oil—a multi-faceted company that also distributes petroleum to more than 350 gas stations in nearly 20 states—made an even bigger splash by acquiring 57 BP stores located throughout the Chicago suburbs. That move came just a month after Atlas had acquired 23 BP stores in Indiana. 
The deals are slowly transforming the Midwest market from the grips of Big Oil to smaller, regional chains that emphasize service and convenience.
More Deals to Come
Last year at this time, BP announced a two-year plan where it would sell all of its company-owned and operated c-stores. The company said it was selling the majority of the sites to franchisees, while some would be sold to dealers and large distributors.  
Fiona MacLeod, BP’s president of U.S. Convenience Retail, said that the company is hoping people who lived in those markets would be interested in owning and operating ampm-branded stores. 
So far, it looks to be playing out that way. Ricker, a 2008 NACS Convention and Events Committee chairman who is also active in the BP Amoco Marketers Association, is a longtime Indiana resident who initially got his start as an oil jobber in that area. 
Ricker said the majority of the BP sites he acquired last month would remain franchisees under the ampm brand, though two will be rebranded to the Ricker’s c-store banner. In addition to acquiring the 32 stores, Ricker also bought three plats of land that don’t have existing buildings on them. 
Ricker Oil supplies petroleum to a number of dealer locations as well, so the company will also serve as fuel supplier to all of the sites it acquired in the Indianapolis market. 
Atlas Oil, meanwhile, will run its 57 new stores from its South Bend, Ind., facility, where it manages fuel supply for more than 129 retail locations. Atlas, which has been among the most active companies in the industry of late on the acquisition trail, distributes a number brands at hundreds of sites, including BP, Citgo, Clark, ConocoPhillips, Fast Track and Marathon. 
The company has been partnering with BP since December 2007 when it became a BP jobber. It closed on the 23-station acquisition in September this year, and Atlas representatives said they remain committed to maintaining and growing the ampm brand. 
During a retailer-supplier panel discussion at the NACS Show in Chicago last month, MacLeod said BP has been aiming to bring its c-stores under the single ampm brand nationally, because it’s easier to operate that way and it fosters a single identity with consumers. 
BP has about 13,000 retail units nationwide, and about 95% of those are run by independent business owners. Last year’s plans to sell off the remaining company-operated stores put more than 700 BP sites on the market. 
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