We had a chance to sit down with the CEO of CST Brands, Kim Lubel, to talk about her amazing career. Below is a hasty transcript and bio. This is the first part of a two part interview. You can see the second half of the interview HERE.
Matt Register: Hey, guys. Welcome back to Texas Business Radio. We’re going to continue to bring you the information you need to grow the business. We have a semi-regular segment we like to call “Legends in Leadership.”
We don’t do them that often, we do them every once in a while when we have somebody that is a national level rock star in business and has grown businesses and has done some really good things and we have somebody in the studio I think got like. We have her for a couple of segments so I’m looking forward to it. I hope you are as well. I’m your host Matt Register here as always with Jay Curry. Jay, talk to me.
Jay Curry: Well Matt, there’s a reason why we don’t do this very often and there’s not very many people that are super rock stars, as you know. It’s not that easy to do. And so I’m really looking forward to this. This is our very first and I’m delighted that we have a lady that’s going to be representing Texas Business Radio’s first Legend. It’s a great story. A lot of things to learn about it. I’m excited.
Matt Register: Yeah no doubt. Get your calls in to 844.814.8144. It is a 24 hour call on line. Get your questions in and we’re going to get the experts on here to answer them.
Kimberly Lubel is the president and CEO of CST brands out of San Antonio. CST Brands… if you’ve ever gone to a Corner Store convenience store, that’s who they are, CST Brands. Kim, welcome to the show.
Kim Lubel: Great. Good to be here. Thank you.
Matt Register: So tell us a little bit about CST Brands and about Kim Lubel.
Kim Lubel: Sure. Well, CST, as you said, is based in San Antonio. We’ve been public for four years now. Fourth anniversary is May 1 of 2017. We were spun out of Valero four years ago and we have about twelve hundred locations in the U.S. and other 800 or so in Canada.
Matt Register: So just a just a handful of locations, right.
Kim Lubel: just a handful, exactly.
Matt Register: A couple of thousands of locations and states in Canada. Tell me a little bit about how that happened, because it got spun out of Valero. Valero is a refining company, an oil and gas company, is not a retail snack sales type company. What was it doing owning those things to begin with and how did they to make the decision to spin it out.
Kim Lubel: Right well I’m sure you could run a whole segment on Valero’s growth story and how it got started and the leaders and legends that have led that business. But you’re right, it’s a refining company, so manufactures gasoline everyday. Lots and lots of it across the U.S. and outside of the U.S., as well. And the retail stations all kind of came, the ownership of those came, along with other acquisitions whether it was refinery acquisitions or the merger of Diamond Shamrock. Really the network itself was sort of an amalgamation just through acquisitions focused on refining and the retail came as a second, kind of a second piece of that. And over time it is probably 10 percent of the overall economic pool and a really good year.
Matt Register: Sure.
Kim Lubel: So it just moved fuel and the rest of the stuff sort of simmered on the sidelines. But retail companies tend to trade a much higher multiple than refining does and the board back in 2012 realized, for Valero shareholders, they would be better off if CST were separated and trading at the higher retail multiple. And it turned out to be the case. So on May 1 if you owned nine shares of Valero stock you get one share of CST. And we’ve been off and running ever since.
Matt Register: And we’ve been off and running and very recently are here in the very near future, it is in fact being acquired by the Circle K Brands, correct.
Kim Lubel: Exactly. So last summer August of 2016 we signed a merger agreement with Circle K, all cash out merger. Our shareholders overwhelmingly approved it in November and we’re just on the tail end of getting regulatory approval right now.
Matt Register: Wonderful, that’s a very very large deal right, in the scheme of things. A couple of thousand stores is going to add to Circle K’s already several thousand stores right.
Kim Lubel: It’s for a billion dollar plus deal. So it’s big. Yeah.
Jay Curry: Well a lot of money to the Valero stockholders and you did this for years it’s pretty amazing stuff.
Kim Lubel: Thank you. It’s been fun.
Matt Register: Yeah no doubt, well walk us through a little bit about your background because a fascinating background. You’re an attorney, by education. Walk us through quickly some of that because you have done a wide variety of from international relations to law to refining to convenience.
Matt Register: That’s right. Walk us through that.
Kim Lubel: Right right. I am not your normal CEO path. I don’t know that there is a real path, but I’m certainly not one. I grew up in a small town in Ohio. Jay and I were just sharing, we’re both from small towns. 108 kids and my graduating class. But even in those high schools you get to do all the sports and the drama and the band and all that.
Jay Curry: It makes you outgoing. It makes you get excited about things and sets up a character and a personality that allows you to go forward.
Kim Lubel: And I think it makes you be brave when you do what you do and then that you don’t think you can do. And I think it has it has set me up along those lines.
I went to college in Ohio at Miami University, not Miami, Florida Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Double major Spanish and international studies and I really thought I was headed towards government service. And then just sort of had crooked zigzags and ended up going to law school at UT in Austin and I ended up doing M&A work out of that.
Matt Register: And not to mention a master’s in international relations right from Baylor so. But by all measure a Texas girl at that point right.
Kim Lubel: Yes. Residency for sure here, and I’ve been here much longer than I was in Ohio.
Matt Register: So you started doing doing law work in Fort Worth. And walk me through a little bit about how you went from that to ending up as corporate counsel for, in-house counsel for Valero.
Kim Lubel: Sure. I was really lucky. Straight out of law school to go to Kelly, Hart, & Hollman, a great Fort Worth law firm and did an awful lot of mergers and acquisition legal work from the very beginning, and finance work. Traditionally the Bass family is one of Kelly, Hart, & Hollman’s clients and so I got to buy all kinds of stuff from TV stations, paper mills, you name it. Every week was a different thing. We were looking at and really got some incredible experience as a baby lawyer and realized that the whole negotiations and acquisition work were something that suited my personality really well. I’m a middle kid. And to me negotiations and acquisitions really are about making both sides happy at the end of the day. The buyer wants to be happy what they want the seller wants to feel good about who they sold to. And that just seemed to play well to my skill set to really look at big picture. How do we get win-wins out of this for both sides and what matters and what doesn’t and picking on the things that matter only. I think lawyers can tend to get a little caught up in fighting every nitty gritty point. I think that’s kind of a waste of energy and it’s a waste of goodwill and any kind of acquisition.
Matt Register: Well I’ll tell you what it. As a Mergers and Acquisitions guy, an investment banker, there are moments that we have literally kicked attorneys out of the room. That when it becomes more important to be right than it is to get to the deal done, to get to a transaction. It becomes something that is inhibitive to a deal and not additive to it. So you have a tremendous amount of experience doing those and you know quite typically attorneys will specialize in the acquisition of a certain type of deal, because acquiring a TV station doesn’t look like anything like acquiring new transportation company or a machine shop, right?
Kim Lubel: Right.
Matt Register: These are vastly different assets you’re buying, vastly different concerns on every single one of them.
Kim Lubel: Right.
Matt Register: So you’ve got a pretty good breadth of experience. What made you decide to take that and go into the corporate world?
Kim Lubel: You know I’ve been out for about six years I have had a head hunter call at the time. I had two little girls at home that I wasn’t seeing very often and was trying to figure out how to balance that all, in hindsight. Turns out it’s not necessarily where I work, it’s who I am. But at the time was really trying to figure out how to get a little bit more containment around my work life. Valero head hunter came along. I fell in love with the people there. Fairly small company at the time but just got at the ground floor at Valero and it started its acquisitions streak. And so in the first acquisition we did was in ’98 and I was strictly the corporate lawyer and I will say probably wasn’t my best acquisition. It was one the hardest one I think I’ve ever worked on, but I didn’t live with the business the next day. Another lawyer handled that side of it and then just before 2000 I inherited all of the commercial work too, so I started work with the trading floor and the refineries. And then when we went to go buy refineries. I knew what mattered and what didn’t. I had a much better sense for the things that were important that we needed to fight about and the things we didn’t need to fight about.
Matt Register: Andy you had to live with the results so whatever you agreed to live with after that.
Kim Lubel: And so I had to still wake up every day and go to work and see them so I need to make sure they were happy too.
Jay Curry: But isn’t it true that that when you do the first one it’s going to be tough and everything you do is going to be new, and you get the second one you get better, and the third one you get better and then you start figure it out and then all piled up for you to be a great expert.
Kim Lubel: It really did. And it gave me exposure to the leadership at Valero, to the board over time. So I was there really on the lawyer side for 15 years. As General Counsel I ran, never had P&L responsibility but I had a number of support divisions, environmental, health and safety, property tax, government affairs, an engineering group for a while report to me, so I got a chance to see the business. And then when the spin came up I was approached by my CEO then to say, you know, if we spin this out would you consider being the CEO for it. I mean, how often does that come along to be Fortune 250 company…
Jay Curry: Not very often, but you have a track record.
Matt Register: That’s that’s absolutely wonderful. I tell you what, one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women, Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. By all measure has been a very remarkable career and much more to come, right?
Kim Lubel: I’m looking forward to it. You know the next phase it’s exciting.
Matt Register: It is exciting and I’m excited to watch it and to hear about it. I want to take a quick break, we’re going to go to a quick break pay a couple of bills. I want to talk about what happened at CST Brands when you took it over because there was a culture shift that had to occur within there. It’s not easy to do. We’re on a hard break. We’ve got to go to break and pay some bills we’ll get back with more right after this.
Ms. Lubel has served as CST’s Chief Executive Officer and President since January 2013, has served as a member of the CST Board since November 2012 and as Chairman of CST Board since April 2013. Prior to her current role at CST, Ms. Lubel served in various executive management roles at Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO), an international manufacturer and marketer of transportation fuels and other petrochemical products, including as Executive Vice President and General Counsel from April 2006 to November 2012, where she lead complex acquisitions and transactions and oversaw legal, environmental, health and safety, ad valorem tax, government affairs and project execution departments. Ms. Lubel also served as Vice President of Legal Services from January 2003 to April 2006 and Managing Counsel and Vice President of Legal Services prior to January 2003. During her tenure at Valero Energy Corporation, Ms. Lubel was the lead lawyer on over $18 billion of acquisitions, helping grow the company from a small, regional refiner to one of international scope.
Prior to joining Valero Energy Corporation in 1997, Ms. Lubel specialized in mergers and acquisitions with the law firm of Kelly, Hart & Hallman from 1991 to 1997.
Since 2011, she has served as a director of the board of WPX Energy, Inc. (NYSE:WPX), a publicly traded company focusing on extraction of oil and natural gas.
Ms. Lubel was named to Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in 2013 and again in 2015, and was named Retail Leader of the Year by Convenience Store News in 2014.
Ms. Lubel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and International Studies from Miami University (Ohio), Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Baylor University, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas School of Law. She is also a 2009 graduate of the Stanford Executive Program.