Philosophical Differences Prompted Upheaval

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Philosophical Differences Prompted Upheaval

By Mitch Morrison - 10/15/2002
FRANKLIN, Tenn. -- The feel-good sentiment that reverberated throughout the Franklin, Tenn. office began to crack several months ago.

It was late May and MAPCO President and CEO James Alligood announced that his outfit was close to acquiring an 85-unit convenience store chain with annual sales of $200 million.

The deal was impending. But days turned into weeks, which turned to months. No deal was or ever has been consummated with that chain or any other.

Alligood and his veteran c-store/petroleum management team were brought in last year by Israeli-based Delek Group, which had just acquired MAPCO and part of another chain, to build store count from some 240 stores to at least 700 over the next few years.

"When I signed on, I thought we shared the same vision," Alligood said yesterday in an interview with CSNews Online. "What I discovered over the past year is they're more short-term strategic thinkers than long-term. They were concerned with short-term profits than long-term growth."

With that philosophical shift, the deal for the 85-store company fell through, as did several others. "We had some deals that were imminent. Then they got cold feet," Alligood said.

Last Wednesday, a simmering rift came to a boil. Alligood, Steve Ramer, vice president of business development, and five others were showed the door. The upheaval occurred just days after MAPCO was featured on the cover of Convenience Store News. "The timing was funny in a way," Alligood said. "Just two weeks before, a friend and I were talking about Swifty Serve and how they filed bankruptcy when not so long ago they were on everyone's cover. The guy warned me not to get caught on the front page of a magazine."

Alligood, who was replaced by friend Lyn Gregory, said he bears no ill feelings toward Delek ? "I have respect for them. They're gritty people, they're smart people. I'm just at a point in my life where I'm not interested in managing a 200-store chain. I wanted to grow it."

Though out of work, Alligood said he's already meeting with longtime associates and stoking the coals.

"You can let everyone know I'm okay. I'm not bitter. I'm 62 years old, but I'm not ready to retire. I'm too young for that."

ABOVE: From left to right, MAPCO's former management team Lyn Gregory, Steve Ramer, Pete Daily and James Alligood. Alligood and Ramer were forced out last week and Gregory was named acting president.