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CALIFORNIA

Tosco Likely to Cut Jobs at 76 Products

Energy: Convenience store operator is buying Unocal unit, which says it could lose 550 positions.

March 11, 1997|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As many as 550 workers will lose their jobs as refinery and convenience store operator Tosco Corp. completes the purchase of Costa Mesa-based 76 Products Co. this month and begins shifting its headquarters to Phoenix, a 76 Products executive said Monday.

Some of the departures will be voluntary, 76 Products President Lawrence Higby said. Tosco offered work to about 100 employees--including Higby--who turned down the positions because they didn't want to relocate.

In all, 76 Products has 3,600 employees. The company, a subsidiary of El Segundo-based Unocal Corp., operates three oil refineries, a network of 1,300 service stations in six states, a fleet of three oceangoing oil tankers and a bulk oil storage and pipeline system.

Tosco executives declined Monday to comment on Higby's remarks, saying the acquisition isn't scheduled to close until the end of the month. "I'd not be comfortable commenting on something affecting employees that are not yet ours," said Jefferson Allen, Tosco's chief financial officer.

The $2-billion sale to Tosco was arranged late last year after Unocal said it planned to spin off its retailing subsidiary in a public offering.

"That put us into play . . . and Tosco stepped forward with a cash offer that was pretty easy" for Unocal to accept, Higby said. The Connecticut-based company offered at least $300 million more than the stock offering would have brought, he added.

Higby acknowledges that he and others at 76 Products would much rather have seen Unocal spin off the company in a public offering. The sale to Tosco "was a temporary disappointment," he said.

Tosco will probably retain several hundred people at 76 Products' headquarters in Orange County, Higby said.

It is also likely to place Circle K convenience stores in many of 76 Products' Unocal 76 service stations and change the brand of gasoline now sold at many Circle Ks to Unocal.

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