Crown CEO steps aside

Frank Rosenberg resigns to be Rosemore executive

March 04, 2003|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

Frank B. Rosenberg, the head of Crown Central Petroleum Corp. after it went private two years ago, resigned as the Baltimore-based oil refiner and gasoline marketer continues with efforts to sell itself, the company said yesterday. Rosenberg, who served as Crown's president, chief executive and chief operating officer, will become executive vice president of business dev- elopment for Rosemore Inc.

Rosemore is the privately held parent company of Crown run by his father, Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., and his brother, Chief Executive Officer Edward "Ned" Rosenberg.

The company named Thomas L. Owsley, a 20-year Crown veteran and previously senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, to run the company's day-to-day operations as president. Henry Rosenberg remains Crown's chairman.

Company executives said yesterday that the change reflected Crown's commitment to selling its assets, including 314 gasoline stations and convenience stores across the mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, two Texas oil refineries and 10 product terminals.

"I think [Frank Rosenberg] felt that it was in the best interest of the company to step aside at this point and let the hired agents and company management execute the stated intention, which is to maximize value of the assets" in a sale, John E. Wheeler Jr., Crown's chief financial officer, said yesterday in a telephone interview. Frank, Henry and Edward Rosenberg did not return phone calls yesterday seeking comment.

Crown put its refineries up for sale in August 2001 as a way to help pay off $125 million in debt, which comes due in February 2005. While it was unable to find a buyer for the refineries, the company had plans to stay in the gasoline retail business.

Then, in January, the company said it hired New York-based Park Avenue Equity Management LLC to help sell the entire company, as a whole or piece by piece. It blamed a "difficult environment faced by independent refiners and retailers during the past year and a half" as reason for the sale.

The move to sell the company surprised oil industry experts, analysts and consultants, who had watched the Rosenbergs win a two-year battle to take Crown private in 2001 after it had been run as a public company for nearly 70 years.

Wheeler said Frank Rosenberg was not pressured to resign by his father or other family members with ownership interests in the company. Frank Rosenberg, 44, has been a part of Crown management since 1986. He is a great-grandson of Louis Blaustein, founder of American Oil Co., or Amoco. Blaustein was a major investor in Crown, which was formed in 1917 by Texas wildcatters.

Ruth R. Marder, a sister of Henry Rosenberg and a principal of Rosemore, said yesterday that Frank Rosenberg's resignation was not specifically demanded by herself, Henry Rosenberg or her sister Judith R. Hoffberger, another Rosemore principal.

"No, it was not us necessarily; it was kind of a group thing," Marder said of Rosenberg's resignation.

Malcolm M. Turner, president of Turner, Mason & Co., a Dallas consulting engineering firm that worked with Crown for more than a year to market its refineries, said he was surprised to hear of Frank Rosenberg's resignation.

"I think it's very significant because it demonstrates the dedication to liquidating Crown," Turner said yesterday.

Yesterday, Wheeler, Crown's chief financial officer, said the company has not entered into any formal relationship or due diligence period with a prospective buyer.

"We don't have anything to announce at this point," he said.

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