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    Houchens to Purchase 14-unit Browning Oil

    Kentucky-based company will keep Shell branding on acquired stores.

    BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Houchens Industries, a Bowling Green, Ky.-based operator of grocery and convenience stores, has signed a letter of intent to purchase 14-store Browning Oil, a privately held chain of Shell-branded c-stores, also based in Bowling Green.

    As exclusively reported in a CSNews Online newsflash yesterday, Houchens CEO Jimmie Gibson told CSNews Online that the plan is to continue operating the acquired stores as Shell stations. The president and CEO of Browning Oil, David Browning, declined to comment on the sale, noting that there were "too many things still yet to be worked out."

    While Browning, 67, will not retire, he will leave the convenience industry, but he told CSNews Online that he does not know what is next for his career.

    Houchens is one of the largest employee-owned companies in the country, with annual sales of about $2 billion. In addition to 40 Jr. Food convenience stores, the company operates 25 to 30 Tobacco Shoppes and more than 300 supermarkets under the Houchens Markets, IGA, Save-A-Lot, Mad Butcher, Food Giant and Piggly-Wiggly names.

    The diversified company also owns a construction company, recycling, insurance, investment and warehousing operations. Last year, it sold its Commonwealth Brands subsidiary, the fourth largest cigarette maker in the U.S., to Imperial Tobacco Group PLC for $1.9 billion.

    Gibson also told CSNews Online that the company was scheduled to open its fourth Crossroad's Market -- a 10,000-square-foot grocery/c-store hybrid -- in March. Designed for rural markets, Crossroad's features a full c-store product assortment, including motor fuel, as well as a streamlined grocery store mix.

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