KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Pilot Flying J, Knoxville-based owner of more than 600 travel center locations across the U.S., has risen to No. 6 on the Forbes list of the largest privately-held companies in the U.S.
With $29.2 billion in sales, Pilot Flying J moved up five notches from last year's list. Forbes released its 2012 Top Largest Private Companies list this week.
It has been a steady climb for Pilot Flying J, which was ranked No. 12 in 2010.
Also, in September, Forbes ranked Pilot Flying J Chairman Jimmy Haslam No. 360 on its 400 Richest Americans list, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion.
Haslam, now owner of the Cleveland Browns football team, relinquished his role as Pilot Flying J CEO in October, and former PepsiCo. President John Compton became the new CEO.
"We are proud of the fact we made the list and that we are sixth over all," Compton said Friday.
This is a testament to the dedication of Pilot Flying J's 30,000 employees, he said. Compton cited three main reasons for the company's move up the Forbes rankings.
One is the benefit of four years being merged with Flying J, and the increased retail locations this has added. Another is the synergies achieved by combining the two retail operations.
"We were able to capture the best of both concepts with Pilot and Flying J and learned to use that to improve the same-store growth in all of our stores," Compton said.
The third is an effort to focus the corporate culture on learning the needs of the truck drivers and others who use the travel centers and making sure those are met, he said.
Over the last year, Pilot Flying J has made a number of acquisitions to expand its role in supplying fuel and lubricants to the oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracking industries.
However, Compton said this has all happened within the current year and not within the time frame Forbes used for its rankings. Those acquisitions should factor into next year's rankings.