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Sanders Oil sold to Alabama company


Riverhill Chevron on Main Street in Columbus is one of 14 gas stations operated by Sanders Oil. The company has been sold to Midstates Petroleum Company of Vernon, Ala.

Riverhill Chevron on Main Street in Columbus is one of 14 gas stations operated by Sanders Oil. The company has been sold to Midstates Petroleum Company of Vernon, Ala. Photo by: William Browning/Dispatch Staff


Will Sanders



William Browning



Sanders Oil Company has been sold. 


Word of the sale of the longtime Columbus company had been whispered for several weeks. The details were finalized Monday morning, according to Will Sanders, the company's vice president. 


The buyer was Midstates Petroleum Company in Vernon, Ala.  


"Midstates is a well respected company in western Alabama and northeast Mississippi," Sanders wrote in a letter to the company's customers last month notifying them of the move. "And with the purchase of SOCO, it will significantly increase their presence in Mississippi." 


As part of the sale, Midstates now owns the 14 local gas stations, six consignment stores and hundreds of commercial accounts Sanders Oil Company operated out of Columbus. The 120 people Sanders Oil Company employed have been offered jobs by Midstates, according to Sanders. 


Phone calls to Midstates Petroleum Company were not returned. 


According to the company's Facebook page, Midstates was founded in 1997 and is Alabama's largest Texaco supplier. 


Sanders declined to disclose the purchase price. Monday, he will begin working for Midstates as the company's director of Mississippi operations. He will have an office in Vernon. 


On Monday afternoon, Sanders sat at his desk inside Sanders Oil Company's business office on the Island, reflecting on the company's history. The company was founded in 1931 by William David Sanders and William Lee Sanders, who went by "Bill Lee." Despite being born during the Great Depression, the company forged ahead, eventually growing into one of the largest full-service petroleum marketers in the region. It was a Columbus tradition. And it was always run by family. 


Asked why the decision to sell the company was made, Will Sanders said that after the economy's "nose dive" in 2008, the company was in need of an influx of cash to "make it grow and remain prosperous." With the economy not yet fully recovered, the company's owners -- Lee Sanders, who owned 51 percent and his brother, David, who owns 49 percent -- were not willing to make the investment. Will Sanders, Lee's son, also cited constraints the federal government is putting on small business owners, "such as Obamacare," as a contributing factor. 


Beginning Monday and continuing through the end of this week, auditors from Sanders Oil Company and Midstates Petroleum Company will be going store to store, transferring locations over one by one. The plan is to transfer roughly three a day. 


Sanders said Midstates deals in fuel distribution and typically leases convenience stores out. 


"Although it's unfortunate that I won't be working for my family's business, I'm excited about this opportunity and look forward to working for a well-respected, growing company," Will Sanders said.


William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.



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