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Thursday, April 20, 2023

Tri Star buys out Cox Oil Co.

Source: C-Store Dive
By Brett Dworski, Reporter

Dive Brief:

  • Convenience retailer Tri Star Energy has acquired 54 c-stores in Tennessee and Kentucky from Cox Oil Co., the parent company of Little General Convenience Stores and Maverick Quick Shop, for an undisclosed amount, according to a Wednesday announcement.
  • Almost all of the acquired stores are owned by Cox, with only two that are dealer-operated. Twenty one of the stores sell Marathon-branded fuel, 13 sell Shell-branded fuel and 20 sell unbranded fuel, according to the announcement from NRC Realty & Capital Advisors, which served as the financial advisor to Cox on the deal. Each store also offers one or more foodservice programs, mainly Cox's proprietary Clucker's Tennessee Fried Chicken.
  • Tri Star, which operates roughly 160 c-stores under the Twice Daily, Sudden Service and Southern Traders banners, grows its footprint by over 30% and surpasses 200 locations with this acquisition.

Dive Insight:

Tri Star's 54-store purchase represents one of the biggest acquisitions the U.S. c-store industry has seen so far this year as M&A continues to keep operators on their toes.

One reason Tri Star was interested in this acquisition was that many of Cox's locations are not in areas where Tri Star currently operates, Steve Hostetter, CEO of Tri Star, said in the announcement. He also noted that Cox's reputation and core values align with Tri Star's.

The acquisition also comes as Tri Star works to convert all of its Sudden Service and Southern Traders c-store banners in Tennessee and Alabama to its Twice Daily brand.

"Our combined companies will feature some of the best programs and operators in our region, allowing us to continue to grow and build the brand in the future," Hostetter said.

For Cox, the move is a complete exit from the c-store industry for founder Michael Cox, who founded the company in 1970, according to the announcement.

"We have known Steve Hostetter and his partners in Tri Star for decades, and it was a very easy and comfortable decision for us to agree to sell to Tri Star," Mark McBride, president and CEO of Cox Oil, said in the announcement. "We know that our stores will be in good hands with them."

The Little General Convenience Stores included in the sale are not to be confused with the 115-location Little General Stores chain based in West Virginia.

Founded in 2000, Nashville, Tennessee-based Tri Star Energy owns and operates over 200 c-stores and supplies fuel to wholesale trade channels in 17 states. The retailer also owns 17 White Bison Coffee shops throughout Tennessee and Alabama.

To see a list of convenience stores and gas stations for sale, click here.