A report issued by The Wall Street Journal claims that at the start of this year, Pilot Flying J was $4 Billion in debt. The previous year they had only accrued about half as much debt. For a company with an estimated $442 Million in profits per year, it seems odd that it would be possible could rack up an extra $2 Billion in debt in just one year. Sure, they’ve been expanding, buying up new lots and building new travel centers, but a major reason that Pilot Flying J’s debt increased so dramatically is that it made two payments to its owners last year totaling around $1.7 Billion.
According to PFJ spokeswoman Lauren Christ, the Haslam Family, including the CEO of PFJ, Jimmy Haslam, and his brother the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, own 59% of the company. That means that less than one year before the FBI raid and subsequent charges of fraud that shook the company’s foundations, the Haslam family was paid at least $1 Billion dollars to oversee employees that were – unbeknownst to them of course – scamming their customers out of millions of dollars per year.
Multiple members of the sales team, including management, have already pled guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit mail fraud. In exchange they have agreed to testify against other coworkers at PFJ.
Despite the mounting debt, the dozens of lawsuits, and the possibly imminent criminal charges, Jimmy Haslam maintains his innocence and has declared that he will “absolutely not” be looking to sell the Cleveland Browns, the football team that he only recently purchased in 2012 (the same year as those massive bonuses) for $920 million.
For all the issues that Haslam and PFJ have been experiencing, don’t expect to see the whole thing come crashing down any time soon. PFJ is still far and away the largest operator of truck stops in North America with annual revenues of over $30 billion dollars. It takes more than a scandal and a few lawsuits to bring down a giant like PFJ. Those in charge of PFJ on the other hand…