Global Partners LP and Richard Wiehl have agreed to divest to Petroleum Marketing Investment Group, LLC, seven stores that sell gasoline and diesel fuel in five local markets in Connecticut, to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that Global’s proposed acquisition of 27 retail gasoline and diesel outlets owned or operated by Wiehl violates federal antitrust laws.
Headquartered in Massachusetts, Global Partners operates 1,550 retail outlets selling gasoline and diesel fuel, mainly in the northeastern United States. Richard Wiehl’s family-owned company, Wheels, operates a chain of 27 retail service stations and convenience stores under the Wheels store brand, all in Connecticut.
According to the complaint, markets for retail gasoline and retail diesel fuel are highly localized, and consumers have no economic or practical alternatives to the retail sale of gasoline or diesel fuel. The complaint alleges that the acquisition will harm competition for the retail sale of gasoline in and around the Connecticut towns and cities of Fairfield, Bethel, Milford, Wilton, and Shelton. In all of these local markets except Wilton, the acquisition will also harm competition for the retail sale of diesel fuel.
“Left unremedied, this transaction would have significantly increased concentration in a number of retail gasoline and diesel markets in Connecticut, enabling the merged firm to increase prices and harm consumers” said Holly Vedova, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “This enforcement action shows the FTC’s continued vigilance in protecting consumers from anticompetitive transactions in the oil and gas industry.”
The complaint alleges that in each of the local gasoline and diesel retail fuel markets where the Commission alleges harm, the acquisition would reduce the number of independent market participants to three or fewer.
Under the terms of the proposed consent order, Global and Wiehl must divest to Petroleum Marketing Investment Group six Global retail fuel outlets and one Wheels retail fuel outlet. For 10 years, Global must obtain prior approval from the Commission before acquiring retail fuel assets within a 2-mile driving distance of any divested outlet. Divestiture buyer Petroleum Marketing Investment Group must obtain prior approval from the Commission for a period of 3 years before transferring any of the divested stations to any buyer, and for a period of 7 years before transferring a divested station to any buyer with an interest in a retail fuel outlet within 2 miles’ driving distance of that divested station.
Further details about the consent order – which includes an order to maintain assets and allows the Commission to appoint a monitor if necessary to ensure compliance with the order – are set forth in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter.
The FTC appreciates the collaboration of Connecticut’s Office of the Attorney General in investigating this case.
The Commission vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 4-0. 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 $43,792.