When Shell Oil bought out Texacos share of Equilon Enterprises LLC in January, it set off a battle for the lubricants distribution network that the oil companies shared for three years. Even before the sale – required by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as a condition of its approval of the Chevron-Texaco merger – Shell and ChevronTexaco began competing for the allegiance of distributors who could deliver their products, not to mention the accounts they serve.
Like blue-chip football recruits, distributors were courted with financial incentives and promises of successful futures. The campaigns appear to be winding down, but it is difficult, unless one accepts Shells claims, to discern the winner. What is clear is that the competition has been spirited – and that the businesses of hundreds of distributors have been caught up in it.