The Top 10 Arkansas Business Stories of 2012: Making History

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 12:00 am  

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart faced worker unrest in the United States. The union-backed OUR Walmart, or Organization United for Respect at Walmart, which was formed in 2010 to promote better working conditions for the 1.3 million U.S. Wal-Mart employees, planned a number of walkouts on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day for retailers. OUR Walmart said it wants more full-time positions with routine schedules rather than unpredictable part-time positions.

Wal-Mart was concerned about the threat because about 90 workers walked off the job in Dallas, Oakland, Calif., and Seattle in October and others left their positions in early November.

Before Black Friday, Wal-Mart filed with the National Labor Relations Board an unfair labor practice complaint against the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, saying the demonstrations threatened to hurt the retailer’s business. In the end, Wal-Mart said, there were only “a few dozen protests” on the day after Thanksgiving.

“We had our best Black Friday ever and OUR Walmart was unable to recruit more than a small number of associates to participate in these made for TV events,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.

4. Murphy Oil Shakes Up, Spins Off

El Dorado’s Murphy Oil Corp. experienced a couple of milestones in 2012, as the company changed its top leadership and announced plans to spin off its highly lucrative retail arm.

The retail arm consists of Murphy Oil USA Inc., the widespread gas stations and convenience kiosks traditionally attached to Wal-Mart supercenters. The company had about 1,100 kiosks at Wal-Mart stores and an additional 140 stand-alone units in 2012.

In January, then-CEO David Wood said the company was considering spinning off Murphy USA to “unlock” its value, claiming that it was “unrealized within the current corporate structure.”

At a May shareholder meeting, Wood said Murphy USA was a “premium business” and was experiencing “tremendous growth,” but left out any details of the spinoff.

A month later, Wood unexpectedly retired and was immediately replaced by Steve Cossé, a director who previously was executive vice president and general counsel. The company stayed quiet about the spinoff for the next few months.

The issue returned in force in October when a New York hedge fund, Third Point LLC, gave Murphy a bit of an ultimatum. The $9.3 billion hedge fund claimed it had a “significant stake” in Murphy Oil and had sought approval to increase its position “should we so desire.”

In its letter to Murphy investors, Third Point quoted lyrics to songs by Boyz II Men and rapper Tupac Shakur while simultaneously recommending “four easy steps” Murphy needed to follow to increase its share value from about $50 to about $90.

 

 

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