Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.) is not satisfied with the Federal Trade Commission's answers to his questions about Gulf Corp.'s divestiture of thousands of gasoline stations in the Southeast.
In an Oct. 29 letter to the commission, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on commerce, transportation and tourism said the FTC's Oct. 7 response "raises more questions than it answers." Both letters were made available to The Washington Post.
The original FTC consent order allowing Chevron Corp.'s $13.2 billion takeover of Gulf required the divestiture of 4,000 gas stations but would have given the retailers permanent use of "the Gulf brand name and trademark."
However, the FTC subsequently approved the sale of the stations to Standard Oil Co. under different terms. The retailers would be licensed to use the Gulf trademark for a maximum of nine years. After that, they would lose their identity as Gulf dealers and have to display a BP, Standard or other Sohio brand name and trademark.
The retailers complained to Florio, who asked the commission for an explanation. The FTC told Florio that it did approve a sale that differed from the original order by licensing the trademark rather than divesting it. This arrangement, it said, would accomplish the purpose of the original order: "to ensure the competitive viability of the Southeast marketing and refining assets."
Standard Oil, the FTC added, is itself a company with strong trade names and told the commission that the retailers' temporary licenses to use Gulf's trademark were "more than adequate."
Florio asked the commission to "reconsider its approach" and added, "It may be that this subject deserves consideration in a future oversight hearing of this subcommittee."