Houchens Industries, Bowling Green, Ky., has signed a letter of intent to purchase Browning Oil, operator of 14 Shell gas stations and convenience stores.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed and the transaction will close in March, according to David Browning, president of Browning Oil. “I intend to pursue other business interests,” Browning told the Bowling Green Daily News. “I’ve been doing this for 42 years, and I’m ready for somebody else to take over and I’ll do something else.” Browning said it has become increasingly difficult for small business to compete with big-box operators, primarily because they lack the economies of scale enjoyed by the bigger chains. With the addition of the 14 stores, Houchens solidifies its presence in markets throughout Kentucky.
Houchens has had a busy few months. The company has been on a shopping spree after selling its tobacco subsidiary Commonwealth Brands, the fourth largest cigarette maker in the U.S., to Imperial Tobacco Group PLC for $1.9 billion last year. It is scheduled to open its fourth Crossroads Market in March. The store is expected to be a 10,000-square-foot grocery store combined with a convenience store.
Houchens is the largest employee-owned company in the U.S. It operates 40 Jr. Food convenience stores, 30 Tobacco Shoppes and more than 300 supermarkets under Houchens Markets, IGA, Food Giant, Piggly-Wiggly, Save-A-Lot and Mad Butchers brands. Annual sales are estimated to be $2 billion.