Warren Buffett’s company accuses Browns owner Jimmy Haslam of bribery in ugly billion-dollar dispute
Warren Buffett and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam are duking it out in high-stakes litigation over a potential total of more than a billion dollars involving allegations of subterfuge.
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway purchased 80 percent of the Pilot Travel Centers (PTC) gas station and truck-stop chain, which was founded by Haslam’s father, Jim, and plans to purchase the remainder of the business.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the two companies are now fighting in Delaware court over accounting semantics that could make as big as a $1.2 billion difference in the price of the remaining acquisition.
Essentially, Berkshire has an option to buy the remainder of the company at 10 times EBIT, meaning earnings before interest and taxes, a common form of measuring profits.
While one would think this would be a pretty straightforward equation, there are all sorts of different accounting methodologies companies of these sizes could deploy.
3Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway accused Browns owner Jimmy Haslam of bribing employees with millions of dollars to inflate Pilot’s 2023 profits. NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via3Jimmy Haslam denied having bribed Pilot employees to inflate profits. Getty ImagesBerkshire is incentivized to believe the profits for Pilot are lower and Haslam would obviously prefer them to be higher so he can net a greater sale price.
Where it gets particularly ugly is Berkshire alleged in a court filing that the Haslam family, as described by the Associated Press, “tried to bribe at least 15 executives at the Pilot truck stop chain with millions of dollars to get them to inflate the companys profits” in 2023.
Haslam has denied these claims.
3Berkshire Hathaway began purchasing Pilot from the Haslam family in 2017. NurPhoto via Getty ImagesWe called Berkshires allegations wild inventions in our opposition brief, Haslam family attorney Anitha Reddy said earlier this month, according to the Associated Press. I dont think we could have been clearer that we dispute them. And if there is any doubt in Berkshires mind, we think theyre false and we intend to defeat them on whatever schedule the court orders.
In 2014, Pilot had to pay $92 million in criminal penalties after it was discovered that the company had systematically shortchanged high-volume trucking customers on fuel rebates.
Haslam was not prosecuted in the case.
Berkshire began acquiring its stake in Pilot in 2017.
Earlier this year, Haslam purchased a 25 percent stake in the Milwaukee Bucks from New York financier Marc Lasry in a deal that valued the franchise at $3.5 billion.
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