A report from OPIS says Thorntons is looking to sell. | Courtesy of Thorntons

Simon Richards, the former head of regional development of BP ProductsNorth America, will be the new chief executive of Thorntons, the company announced.

Richards has more than 24 years of experience in the industry, holding numerous titles at BP, a multinational oil and gas company. He succeeds Matt Thornton, former chairman and CEO, whose family founded the convenience chain in 1971.

The announcement came at the same time that the private investment firm Arclight Capital Partners and BP closed on their joint purchase of Thorntons. The acquisition was finalized on Feb. 11, according to a news release.

Terms of the purchase were not disclosed, though Forbes estimated that Thorntons was valued at $2.4 billion when the acquisition deal was announced.

All existing convenience stores will continue to operate under the Thorntons name and will retain employees throughout the regions they serve, including those working out of the store support center in Louisville. As of Dec. 3, 2018, the company had 191 stores and 4,700 employees.

Industry expert Jeff Lenard, vice president for strategic industry initiatives for National Association of Convenience Stores, told Insider Louisville last year that the convenience store and gas station market is seeing considerable consolidation.

The Louisville chain is overall considered one of the better run operations, he said, making it a prime target for acquisition.

“The value of convenience is extremely high, and if you are a good operator, there are opportunities to do something in the market,” Lenard said in June 2018.

Thorntons was founded by James H. Thornton and has locations in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida.

During the past several years, the company invested millions in renovating stores, including adding more healthy and prepared food options made in on-site kitchens. It also built a new $27.8 million headquarters off Old Henry Road in 2016.