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SANFORD, N.C. -- The Pantry has hired Keith Bell, 42, to the newly created position of senior vice president of fuels for the southeastern chain's stores.

In this role, Bell will manage the company's internal gasoline and environmental operations, as well as its external relations with major oil companies.

"In light of the significant growth we have achieved over the last few years, we came to the conclusion that we needed a dedicated senior executive to manage all of our fuel-related operations and industry relationships," said Peter J. Sodini, chairman and CEO of The Pantry. "Keith's broad experience touching on so many different aspects of the wholesale and retail fuel businesses made him an ideal candidate for this new position," he added.

Bell comes to this position from 18 years with BP and its acquired unit Amoco Corp. There Bell served in sales and management roles, and was most recently vice president for the chains U.S. branded jobber business.

At BP he worked on projects such as SAP implementation, brand management and re-imaging, e-business and regional pricing and gross margin optimization.

Bell started his career at Xerox Corp. after graduating from the University of Rochester.

The Pantry, an independent c-store chain, had net sales of $4.4 billion in fiscal 2005. At the end of June 2006, the company operated 1,499 stores in 11 states, primarily under the Kangaroo Express banner.