Well what a shocker! The Jet brand is returning to the company owned sector. Brand owner Phillips 66 has bought independent dealer Nick Baker’s award-winning business in Yorkshire. While it’s only four sites, Mary Wolf, the company’s managing director, UK marketing, said the acquisition was the start of a new development for Phillips 66, and marks the first phase in the rollout of its plans while stressing that the company remained committed to the dealer market.

Is this the start of the pendulum swinging back towards oil company ownership and away from growth within the dealer sector (see News Extra, page 10)?

With off again/on again rumours abounding about a significant Harvest Energy deal, and Certas Energy actively engaged with developing its owned network, how far will this trend go? You can understand why it’s happening - there is fierce competition for all sizes of dealer, and turnover is slow. Acquisition is a quicker, more certain route to boosting networks.

It was back in 2001 that ConocoPhillips - as it was known then - sold its entire Jet-branded company-owned network of about 160 sites to entrepreneur Rikki Hunt for £75m, in what was a very significant and controversial move at the time. Site economics and the advent of convenience retailing, which required the keen and focused approach of an on-site entrepreneur, led the oil companies away from forecourt ownership. Texaco followed, and in more recent years, the majors have sold off hundreds of sites, enabling dealers to build huge businesses and ultimately, many are now selling to the highest bidder - ironically in some cases, to oil companies.

As far as those Jet sites are concerned, it didn’t work out for Rikki Hunt and his Fuelforce business. It all went kaput in 2005 and most of the sites, via various routes, have ended up in the hands of MFG.

Meanwhile, Nick says he’s retiring - can’t imagine that’ll last long! I’m sorry to see him go from the industry - an amazingly driven, dedicated and innovative retailer. Very best of luck to him. And congratulations to him and all our other superb 2018 award winners!