Tri Star Energy, LLC and Hollingsworth Oil Company, Inc., C & H Properties, and Ronald L. Hollingsworth have agreed to divest, retail fuel assets to settle charges that Tri Star’s proposed acquisition of certain assets from Hollingsworth would violate federal antitrust law. Tri Star, a Nashville, Tennessee-based energy company, operates fuel outlets and convenience stores in four states including Tennessee. The Hollingsworth entities are based in Springfield, Tennessee and operate fuel outlets and convenience stores throughout middle Tennessee.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint, the proposed acquisition would harm competition for both retail gasoline and retail diesel in the two local markets of Whites Creek, Tennessee and Greenbrier, Tennessee. In each of these markets, the acquisition would result in a merger to monopoly.
The complaint alleges that, without the remedy, the acquisition would substantially lessen competition for the retail sale of gasoline and diesel in Whites Creek and in Greenbrier. The acquisition would increase the likelihood that Tri Star could unilaterally raise prices in each of the two markets.
Under the terms of the proposed consent order, Tri Star would be required to divest to Cox Oil Company, Inc. retail fuel assets in Whites Creek and Greenbrier within 10 days after Tri Star completes the acquisition. Tri Star and Hollingsworth would be required to maintain the competitiveness of the divestiture assets during the divestiture process.
Further details about the consent agreement, which includes an asset maintenance order and allows the Commission to appoint a monitor trustee, are set forth in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter.
The Commission vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 4-0-1, with Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter not participating. The FTC will publish the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. Instructions for filing comments appear in the published notice. Comments must be received 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Once processed, comments will be posted on Regulations.gov.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $43,280.