The family-owned Pilot Co. gets its first outside CEO in January when Shameek Konar succeeds Jimmy Haslam in operating the nation’s largest network of travel plazas and truck stops.
Konar joined Pilot in 2017 to grow its energy business. He is currently chief strategy officer. Konar will ease into the new role over the next six months. Jimmy Haslam will become chairman of the board, which he joined at age 20 in 1975 when annual sales were around $50 million.
Pilot today is ranked No.10 on Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies, with 2019 revenue of $31 billion. The Pilot Flying J network includes 950 locations in 44 states and six Canadian provinces. It has more than 680 restaurants, 74,000 truck parking spaces and 35 Truck Care service centers.
Since November, Pilot has been targeting small trucking fleets with its One9 fueling network, aligning with brands like Marathon Oil’s Speedway commercial fueling locations.
Key member of leadership team
Konar has more than 20 years of experience in the energy and commodity market. At Pilot, he focused on acquiring, integrating and making the most of assets. He oversaw 19 acquisitions during his time running Pilot Energy.
“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,” Haslam said in a press release Tuesday.
Konar immediately assumes management of technology, human resources, finance and legal. Haslam will continue to oversee real estate. Store operations and development teams will continue to report to President Ken Parent, who will become senior adviser to the CEO and chairman in January. Parent will guide company strategy and priorities.
Konar will add store operations and development in 2021. The rest of Pilot’s management team will stay in place.
Haslam family interest
Haslam, 66, told FreightWaves in an interview in February that he planned to step aside as CEO this summer, and that his successor would be an internal pick. He said he would stay involved in the business as chairman of the business his father, James Haslam, founded with a single gasoline station he purchased for $6,000 in 1958.
Other family members will continue to be involved in the company. Whitney Haslam Johnson will continue to serve as chief experience officer and a board member. She will be joined on the board by Jimmy’s brother, former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
“When joining the Pilot family, I was immediately drawn to the strong culture that Jimmy and the entire Haslam family created,” Konar said.
The Haslams are selling 41% of the recently renamed company to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in 2023. The multinational investment group will then have 80% control of the company following the purchase of 38.6% for $2.76 billion in 2017.
The future for travel plazas
Haslam said in the FreightWaves interview that he sees a saturation point for truck stops and travel plazas coming. Always a strategic exercise, deciding where to open new locations has a renewed focus.
“We’re looking at ports, areas where distribution centers are,” Haslam said. “Those are some of the things we can do to take advantage of the change in logistics … where Amazon and other distribution centers are located. We know where they are. We pay attention.”
Pilot opened a truck plaza near an Amazon distribution center two years ago in Patterson, California. Other nearby distribution centers with trucks coming and going provide a consistent flow of business.
The size of the Pilot network leaves few holes to fill. The company will open 20 new plazas this year and a similar number in 2021. After that, Haslam said, he isn’t sure.