Casey’s, Couche-Tard and Parties

By  Mitch Morrison, Vice President & Group Editor

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“Who’s the third party?” the man wanted to know. Fresh from a week on the beach, my mind was on a different kind of party. But moments later, I understood the man’s request. Our exclusive Morgan Keegan-CSP Daily News Flash hit my inbox. The story was less about kegs than it was about Casey’s and Couche-Tard.

To no one’s surprise, Casey’s not only rejected outright Couche-Tard’s latest bid of $38.50 per share, but it also said it was strutting a new suitor, a “strategic third party” that was not hostile, but rather pursuing a “consensual transaction …”

Oooooh. The jabs and slights have gotten ugly since the spring. But from Couche-Tard’s view, this subtle dig may have been the nastiest. From the perch of the Owl, Casey’s comeback was like the top cheerleader deflecting your most suave advances, only to arrive at the prom with the class nerd.

As I write this just after Labor Day, it has been revealed that the third party is 7-Eleven, the world’s biggest c-store retailer. And so the saga continues. This was and has been one of the most complex stories I’ve worked on in a threedecade career, one that has included monthlong enterprises on government corruption, crime, merged conglomerates and profiles of complex people. So what’s so hard about covering a classic hostile takeover bid?

Since the spring, we have published more than a dozen news flashes on Casey’s and Couche-Tard alone, more than triple any other subject in either 2009 or 2010. And during that time, we’ve run short updates in virtually every issue of CSP.

Truth be told, it’s been one of the most-read storylines in CSP Daily News and across the industry. So why have we held off, until now, on making this our cover story? Why not run this story months ago, when the news was first breaking? The answer is not because we held it for the biggest issue of the year, the NACS Show issue. Those who hold the news are punished by its readers.

We hesitated because of one reason: today’s news cycle. Since April our editorial team has debated whether to devote weeks of time and pages of space to a story that very well may be old news by the time you read this column. Why report on something that may happen if, by the time readers pick up the magazine, it already has happened? Indeed, when Casey’s shareholders convene their annual meeting Sept. 23 (10 days after this column was finalized), there’s a good chance we’ll know the company’s direction.

This is the challenge of weekly and monthly pubs in the era of the Internet. Indeed, this is the very challenge of print journalism. So now the question is reversed: Why risk running a story that potentially may be irrelevant?

At our recent Outlook Leadership conference, Olympic gold-medal gymnast Peter Vidmar answered it best while explaining his sport’s scoring system. A perfect routine centered on run-of-the-mill stunts can earn you a 9.4. To achieve a perfect 10, one must add ROV: risk, originality and virtuosity (excellence in execution).

For print publications to be not only viable but also necessary, we must take risks. Running a story that may be outdated is a definite risk—trust me. Survey after survey has shown that readers are comfortable getting our daily news online. But for deep analysis and special investigative reports, there is nothing that trumps print, whether because of the design, length or the flexibility it affords you to pick up the story and put it down at your leisure.

Our cover story is less about the gamesmanship of move and countermove. It’s about the culture and psychology of two of our industry’s best-known and largest chains.

In the end, it’s not just about who’s coming to the party, but the party itself. 

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