Exclusive Interview: Stripes President Accepts New Position

Published in CSP Daily News

DeSutter leaves mark on Susser Holdings after 5-year stint

By  Mitch Morrison, Vice President & Group Editor

Steve DeSutter

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- It was five years ago when Steve DeSutter, then a laconic executive at Burger King, swapped burgers for tacos and QSRs for convenience, when he joined what is today Susser Holdings Corp.

To outsiders, it was a coup for the Corpus Christi retailer, a multi-generation operator founded on fuel and rapidly evolving into a creative convenience player. In short time, the company built a distinctive retail brand, Stripes, and an innovative food program called Laredo Taco.

Over the past several years, Susser has grown Stripes in both store count and presence. Just last month, Stripes’ store count topped 600 via a local acquisition. Its convenience store footprint frequently tops 5,000 square feet (and even 7,000 square feet at select sites), and foodservice occupies half the space at many locations.

That vision, conceptualized by company chairman Sam L. Susser, was orchestrated by a talented retail team led by Sam and Steve in an effective partnership, according to both parties.

So, DeSutter’s decision Tuesday to leave at the end of this month—as reported in a 21st Century Smoke/CSP Daily News Flash—is significant on multiple counts. First and foremost, it leaves a hole at the top position of Susser’s retail division, a vacancy likely to be addressed during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call slated for Feb. 26.

At the same time, however, his presence corresponds with a successful run for the Susser brand and its continued saturation in Texas. Notably, since the company’s IPO in 2006, Susser Holding’s adjusted EBITDA has more than tripled, and the company in 2011 ranked fifth in total shareholder return among Fortune 500 companies.

DeSutter acknowledged that Susser is no ordinary convenience store chain. “I’ve had a great five years here and have worked with an incredible team, from Sam on down,” he told CSP Daily News in an exclusive interview.

DeSutter, who recently turned 60 and is parent to six grown children, has accepted a position as CEO of a multi-channel operator whose name he has not yet disclosed, and he and his wife will relocate to Atlanta.

As for the company he is leaving, Susser Holdings today ranks among the elite in the convenience store channel both in terms of finances and store performance. Of publicly traded convenience chains, Susser Holdings enjoys the lowest debt-to-equity ratio and strongest per-store (non-fuel) sales. Its operating margins, market cap and EBITDA remain very healthy, and the organization is praised by analysts and industry experts for its tenure and ability to evolve to changing customer dynamics.

It’s that continuous innovation that impresses DeSutter not only about Susser but about the entire convenience channel.

“If you ask me what I love most about the convenience channel, it’s our industry’s innovation and creativity and restless dissatisfaction,” he said. “As for Susser, what I’m most proud of is the strength of our team, the relationship I’ve enjoyed with Sam as our leader, and that Sam and his team have been so welcoming in allowing me to participate in our success over the past five years.”

The decision to leave is not easy, and it’s well known in business circles that DeSutter has long been a coveted talent. Before joining Susser in 2008, DeSutter served as executive vice president and member of the executive leadership team at Burger King Brands Inc. and helped oversee the company’s global expansion in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

DeSutter’s mark on Susser is widely appreciated, most noticeably from his boss, Sam Susser. “I want to thank Steve for his leadership and service to all of the Stripes stakeholders," Susser said in a statement. “He has been dedicated to helping us grow our business while helping to build one of the most committed management teams in the industry.

“We are grateful for the many new ideas and business processes that our retail team has implemented during Steve's five and a half years with us. We wish him all the best in his next endeavor."

In an exclusive comment to CSP Daily News, he added, “We appreciate Steve's many contributions to Susser. [We] plan to continue to work closely with our executive team to support our team in our relentless quest to become a better company in the years ahead. We are very blessed to have a lot of tenure and a lot of energy on the team and plan to make 2014 a year of setting new records for Stripes.”

By Mitch Morrison, Vice President & Group Editor
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