By Laura Sanicola and Arathy Somasekhar
(Reuters) – U.S. fuel retailer Pilot Company is trimming its energy trading operation, according to three people familiar with the matter, days before billionaire investor Warren Buffett is expected to take majority control of the firm.
Known best for its Pilot Flying J service stations and truck stops, Pilot expanded a fuel purchase and trading business in recent years by recruiting experienced diesel, gasoline and crude oil traders from Exxon Mobil, Phillips 66, Noble Group and others.
About 15 employees were released on Monday, most tied to an expansion two years ago into crude oil trading, said two of the people. Vice President Steven Hollerbach is leaving as part of the downsizing, the people said.
Hollerbach did not immediately reply to a request for a comment on his LinkedIn account.
“While a small piece of our energy trading business was eliminated, Pilot Company will continue its sustained growth and innovation across our travel center network and energy divisions,” according to a statement from Pilot Chief Executive Shameek Konar provided by a company spokesperson.
Berkshire Hathaway declined to comment.
A spokesperson for Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Berkshire Hathaway acquired a stake of about 39% in the company in 2018 and agreed to boost its holdings to 80% this year.
That increased ownership closed at the end of January, the company said.
Pilot’s oil and petroleum trading operation is small, with about 100 employees, a fraction of the staff at better-known traders Freepoint Commodities, Mercuria and Vitol. The closely held company had sales of about $45 billion in 2021.
That year, Pilot expanded its fuel trading business by adding financial trading and a Mexico trading specialist to gain better insight into the market and sell fuel it did not need for its own operations.
Pilot operates about 800 retail outlets in 44 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces, and runs a fleet of 1,600 tanker trunks that supply its own stores and other retailers.
(Reporting by Laura Sanicola in Washington and Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)