Berkshire-Backed Pilot Seeks $3.5 Billion Loan to Pay Haslams

The Haslam family, one of the richest in the U.S., is taking advantage of the booming leveraged loan market to help cash out of its holdings of Pilot Travel Centers LLC, owner of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain.

Pilot Travel Centers is borrowing $3.5 billion to buy back $2.3 billion of preferred equity held by the Haslam and the Call families, and to refinance debt. The families started selling the business to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in 2017, with the conglomerate planning to increase its stake to 80% through 2023.

The Knoxville, Tennessee-based Haslams are among the U.S.’s richest families with a net worth of more than $12 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Their fortune can be traced back to 1958, when James Haslam II paid $6,000 to take over a Virginia gas station. In 2009, Pilot acquired Flying J, founded by Jay Call.

Berkshire-Backed Pilot Seeks $3.5 Billion Loan to Pay Haslams

Haslam’s son, Jimmy, 67, was CEO of the business until January, and also owns the Cleveland Browns football team. The family will retain 20% of the business after 2023.

Representatives for Wells Fargo & Co., which is leading the loan sale, and for Pilot declined to comment. Berkshire Hathaway didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

A lender call for the $3.5 billion loan is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. New York time, with commitments due July 29. The debt being refinanced includes a revolving credit facility and a portion of a different term loan, both maturing in 2024.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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