Bp Relocates New Franchise Hq To North County; Some Job Cuts

Saturday, March 22, 2008

RETAIL: Move part of company's shift away from owning gas stations

Britain's BP PLC has moved the headquarters for its U.S. gas stations and convenience stores to Orange County, but not before cutting 117 jobs from its offices in La Palma.

The cuts came as part of BP's ongoing sale of its 700 ampm convenience stores to franchises.

BP employs about 200 people in La Palma who now handle relations with franchises, rather than overseeing company-owned stores and stations.

There are no plans to add jobs as the company works on slimming down the division amid the changeover.

Job cuts in La Palma were mostly in marketing and sales, according to BP. Along with holding the headquarters for the franchise operation, La Palma also will be home to field operators who visit franchise stores.

BP's cuts were heaviest in Naperville, Ill., which used to house BP's retail headquarters. About 350 administrative workers were let go there, the company said.

The Naperville office is closing. It's unclear if any of those workers are transferring to La Palma.

Another 9,500 workers at stores and stations were cut from BP's payroll, though franchises are expected to hire most of them.

London-based BP is the third-largest oil company after Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

It sells 15 billion gallons of gas through 13,000 stations a year.

BP has had the La Palma site since 1994. It occupies two buildings and seven floors at the North County city's Centerpointe La Palma, which includes office and other buildings.

The company came to La Palma by way of its 2000 acquisition of Arco, which had operations in the city. Arco stations make up the majority of BP's gas stations in the Western U.S. BP uses its own name on stations in the East.

About 95% of BP's stores already are owned by franchisees. It will take an estimated two years to sell the rest, according to the company.

The stores sell gasoline as well as 2,200 other products�from cheeseburgers and baked goods to coffee and hats.

BP said its success in franchising the ampm brand in Chicago last year led to the decision to sell the stores.

Arco started the ampm brand in Southern California in 1978.

Most of BP's company stores are in the Western U.S. Current franchises are concentrated in Chicago, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

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