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Pilot Company announced that CEO Jimmy Haslam will be succeeded in the role by current Chief Strategy Officer Shameek Konar on Jan. 1, 2021, at which point Haslam will become chairman of the board, and company founder James Haslam will be named chairman emeritus.
Konar, who joined Pilot in 2017, will be the first nonfamily CEO in the 62-year history of the company, which has grown from its start as a single gas station to include 28,000 employees and 950 locations, and is the nation’s largest seller of over-the-road diesel fuel.
Haslam in an exclusive interview with Transport Topics, said making the announcement now will help ensure “a more orderly transition,” adding, “It’s a significant change from me having been CEO for about 25 years.”
Pilot is one of the nation's largest operators of travel centers, with more than 950 locations. (Pilot Company)
Haslam added, “It is something we have been working on for about a year, and identified Shameek to be an outstanding prospect to be our CEO.”
Haslam noted that Konar’s responsibilities expanded at the beginning of this year when he took control of the company’s fuel operations, in addition to running Pilot Energy.
Haslam said when the leadership change is made, his one and only objective will be, “To help and support Shameek in any way possible.”
Haslam added in a release, “His knowledge of the energy sector, including expertise in the acquisition, development and operations of infrastructure assets and resources, and his deep appreciation of Pilot’s culture and values are a few of the reasons why we chose him to be our next CEO. We have full confidence that Shameek will continue to grow the legacy of our family’s business.”
Konar told TT the company culture was a key aspect of his decision to join Pilot.
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“This is the primary reason I ended up coming to Pilot, and I really, really enjoy being here,” he said. “I was a skill set in search of a culture, and I found it. The way we talk about [the culture] here is be humble, hungry and accountable. It’s all about teamwork.”
Konar said he intends to maintain the company’s focus on serving the needs of the trucking industry and Pilot’s guests, whatever those needs may be. Those could include technological advancements, he noted, such as autonomous trucks and electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles. The company will also keep an eye out for growth opportunities, including renewable diesel and electric-vehicle charging stations.
“We have an amazing network,” Konar said. “That is our core business. We stay close to the [alternative] technology, and we are always learning and looking for opportunities to invest. But, focusing on the trucking industry, it is not clear to us what feels like the winner right now.”
For now, diesel remains the industry’s primary fuel, and has presented Pilot with opportunity for expansion, he said.
“Over the last few years, we have grown our fuels business pretty significantly,” Konar said. “Instead of just selling fuel through our travel centers, we have expanded to become one of the largest wholesalers of fuel in the country, selling fuel across the rack [a distribution point] to many customers.”
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Add to that Pilot’s logistics operations: It has one of the nation’s largest tanker fleets and delivers gasoline, diesel, ethanol, biodiesel, crude oil and water.
Effective immediately, Konar will take on additional responsibilities, including the management of technology, HR, finance and legal.
The real estate team will continue to report to Jimmy Haslam, and the store operations and development teams will continue to report to President Ken Parent. As CEO, store operations and development will be added to Konar’s role in 2021, according to the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company.
Konar also pointed to the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on businesses.
“Cases are surging again. Not only as a country, but as the world, we are generally confused on how to deal with it, or contain this. It has definitely impacted us quite a bit,” he said. “We have 28,000 people interacting with other people every day. We do about 1.5 million transactions a day. It’s scary, but essential. They are helping to keep America moving. Keeping them safe and our doors open is our primary objective as we go through this.” He added: “I‘m sure there will be numerous other situations where we have to adapt to what the market and world requires.”
Haslam said, “All of us have come away with an even more profound appreciation for the jobs that our teams at Pilot in the truck stop, travel center business and the trucking industry in general, do, and will continue to do.”
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