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    BP to Sell All Company-Owned and -Operated C-stores

    Sale to franchisees, dealers and distributors will include more than 700 stores during the next two years.

    NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- BP's U.S. convenience retail unit will sell all of its company-owned and -operated convenience stores, mostly to franchisees, while some will also be sold to dealers and large distributors, the company reported. Currently, about 95 percent of BP retail sites are operated by independent business people, according to the company.

    "By tapping into the entrepreneurial experience and knowledge of local station owners, we will build a strong franchise network that will help us grow our business," Fiona MacLeod, president of BP U.S. convenience retail, said in a statement. "This business and the people in it have created a culture of excellence that will be the backbone of our organization going forward."

    The sale of the more than 700 stores will be completed during the next two years, and will continue to market BP fuels in the eastern U.S., and ARCO fuels in the western U.S., the company stated. The franchise agreements will be for 20 years and requires sites to be supplied with BP or ARCO branded fuels for the term of the contract, according to the company.

    According to NRC Realty, BP-branded gasoline stations, some of which have ampm convenience stores, will be sold in the following locations:

    -- Georgia (56 units)

    -- Illinois (83 units)

    -- Indiana (40 units)

    -- Cleveland (89 units)

    -- Columbus, Ohio (46 units)

    -- Pennsylvania (13 units)

    -- Wisconsin (one unit)

    ARCO-branded stations with ampm stores will be sold in the following states:

    -- Arizona (two units)

    -- California (108 units and two ARCO stations)

    -- Oregon (11 units)

    -- Washington (41 units)

    Commercial sites will be sold in the following locations:

    -- Arizona (three sites)

    -- California (three sites)

    -- Atlanta (nine sites)

    -- Indiana (two sites)

    -- Chicago (12 sites)

    -- Cleveland (10 sites)

    -- Columbus, Ohio (11 sites)

    -- Oregon (one site)

    -- Pittsburgh (five sites)

    -- Washington state (three sites)

    As announced last month, BP will transition to a single franchised brand -- ampm -- in the U.S.

    "The ampm brand has a 30-year track record in the western U.S. and has seen very positive results East of the Rockies based on the value that franchisees bring to the business," MacLeod said. "The brand has a 94 percent brand awareness rating West of the Rockies, and a strong international presence in Japan, Brazil and Mexico. We are excited about growing the brand in the eastern U.S."

    BP will support franchisees with a field-based staff and a head office located in La Palma, Calif., as a result of the closure of its U.S. convenience retail office in Naperville, Ill., which was previously announced in October.

    The change to franchise-operated stores is in line with BP's reorganization plans, which aim to simplify the company and improve performance, the company stated.

    As a result of the sale, 9,500 BP convenience store positions and 350 business support staff positions will be eliminated, along with approximately 100 employees from BP's pipelines and logistics unit, according to the company.

    "We know that these changes will be very difficult for our employees, and we are putting measures in place to assist affected business support staff, including job placement assistance," added MacLeod. "It's been our experience that the majority of convenience store employees are retained by the new owners."

    She added: "We are not leaving these communities. As much as possible, we want ampm stores to be owned and operated by people who live in the communities we serve."

    For more information on BP franchising, please visit www.bpampmfranchising.com.

    In other BP news, yesterday BP and the University of California, Berkeley, sealed a deal that gives the school $500 million more than 10 years to address global energy challenges, the Daily Californian reported.

    The deal took nine months to finalize, and was fulfilled with the signature of Robert Malone, president of BP America, in Houston, the report stated.

    As part of the agreement, BP will provide half a billion dollars to Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to conduct research at the Energy Biosciences Institute, which will be completed by 2010. Researchers there will work on developing plants for biofuels, converting them into fuel and economic and social impacts of biofuel production, according to the report.

    Of the funds, $350 million will fund the "open component" of the research, while the remainder will support about 50 BP scientists for proprietary research at the institute, the report stated. Nearly 200 scientists have gotten approval to start 40 projects, Stephen Long, the institute's deputy director, told the paper.

    "This is BP's chance to put their money where their mouth is," he said. "$500 million is a big commitment."

    On the Governance Board, which oversees the institute, BP will hold four spots and Berkeley will appoint members for the other four, the report stated.

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