Sunoco CEO Lynn Elsenhans to Step Down

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Sunoco CEO Lynn Elsenhans to Step Down


PHILADELPHIA -- Sunoco Inc. CEO Lynn Elsenhans will step down from her role on March 1. Brian MacDonald, currently the petroleum retailer's CFO and senior vice president, will replace her.

"In many discussions with the board of directors, I have decided now is the right time to step aside," Elsenhans said during a conference call today. "…I have full confidence in Brian as the CEO. I will remain on as chairman until Sunoco's May board of directors meetings. Then, Brian will fully take over."

The move correlates to Elsenhans' previous announcement that Sunoco will exit the refinery business. The company's convenience stores are not expected to be impacted by the change.

"As difficult as it is for us to exit the refinery business, the outlook remains weak," Elsenhans said during today's call. "We have initiated talks with 150 companies internationally, with the efforts led by Credit Suisse. There is some degree of interest [in our refinery business]."

Elsenhans added that if its Philadelphia refinery is not sold by July, it will become idle.

No buyer has been found yet for Sunoco's Marcus Hook refinery, which is already idle, she said.

"We will be financially stronger and more flexible once we exit the refinery business," MacDonald added. "We will be well-positioned to generate great returns for shareholders."

In regards to how the Sunoco organization will be composed in the future, MacDonald said the company could look like a master limited partnership (MLP). As CSNews Online reported yesterday, Marathon Petroleum Corp. plans to spin off its midstream assets as an MLP later this year. MacDonald did not say during the call if a Sunoco spinoff was forthcoming, however.

As for its latest earnings, Sunoco's retail marketing division increased its quarterly profits fortyfold. The division earned $40 million for its 2011 fiscal fourth quarter, compared to a $1 million profit during its 2010 Q4. Higher retail gasoline and distillate margins were one of the primary reasons for the retail marketing division's profit increase, according to Sunoco.

"We saw a familiar pattern [during the past quarter]," said Elsenhans. "Logistics and retail were very strong."

For the whole year, Sunoco's retail marketing division took in $169 million, compared to $176 for 2010. "We plan to grow our retail division organically, as well as look for opportunistic acquisitions," MacDonald said. Companywide, Sunoco suffered a $660 million loss during its 2011 fourth quarter. By comparison, it gained $119 million in profits in its 2010 Q4.