Haslam Family Sells Last 20% of Pilot to Berkshire Hathaway

Final Sale of Truck Stop Chain Completes Settlement Agreement
A Pilot Travel Center
Pilot Travel Centers employs about 30,000 people and bills itself as the largest network of travel centers, with more than 870 locations. (Pilot Travel Centers)

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CLEVELAND — Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has officially bought the last 20% of Pilot Travel Centers that it didn’t already own from the Haslam family.

Berkshire Hathaway announced Jan. 16 that it now owns the whole company, having bought 80% of it in the past. The final sale was part of a settlement agreement that Buffett’s firm and the Haslam family reached earlier this month.

That last 20% stake had been the subject of scrutiny, with the Haslam family accusing Berkshire of trying to understate Pilot Co.’s earnings. Then, Berkshire accused the Haslam family of trying to bribe Pilot executives to inflate the company’s profits before the sale.

How much that 20% stake of Pilot sold for was tied to the company’s profits, per an agreement reached in 2017 when Berkshire first started buying the company. The two sides reached a settlement before a trial was set to begin. The final sale price was not disclosed in Berkshire Hathaway’s news release.

Bloomberg reported in December that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was being investigated by federal prosecutors over those potentially illegal payments that Berkshire alleged.

Berkshire first bought 38.6% of Pilot (then Pilot Flying J) in 2017. That deal also set the terms for Berkshire to buy another 41.4% stake in January 2023. The Haslam family then had the option to sell its remaining 20% stake in 2024.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam by Joshua Gunter/Cleveland.com via Tribune Content Agency 

Pilot was founded by Jim Haslam, father of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Jimmy Haslam served as CEO of the company until 2012, the same year he bought the Browns.

Headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., Pilot Travel Centers employs about 30,000 people and bills itself as the largest network of travel centers, with more than 870 locations across 44 U.S. states and Canada.

In a statement emailed to the Knoxville News, Buffett said the company would remain in Knoxville. 

Pilot released a statement confirming the sale and thanking employees.

“While this has certainly been an emotional decision for us, it is one we felt was right for our family at this time,” said Jim Haslam. “We look forward to continuing to support our lifelong home of Knoxville, Tenn., and to furthering our deep commitment and philanthropy throughout the region that we all love.”

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