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ARIE KOTLER CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ARKO CORP., RICHMOND


Kotler, who is originally from Israel, was a venture capitalist back in 2003, when he began considering the American conve- nience store market.


He has an eye for a good investment, and


Kotler quickly built up GPM Investments LLC (holding company Arko’s primary asset) by acquiring family-owned convenience store chains in smaller markets, and he sold the company in 2006.


In 2011, he bought back in, becom- ing owner and CEO. Kotler’s strategy for growing the company has been to avoid new


construction and buy up struggling chains that have well-established branding. Arko had been publicly traded on the


Tel Aviv Stock Exchange for years, but in 2021, it joined the New Nasdaq Exchange aſter merging with Haymaker Acquisition. The company purchased the 60-store ExpressStop chain in Michigan and Ohio in May, which moved Arko up from the seventh- to the sixth-largest convenience store corpo- ration, with 3,000 locations, 1,400 of which are operated by the company. In May, Kotler said that GPM would be experimenting with new prototypes of convenience stores in Virginia, with plans to open 10 new stores customized to meet the interests of customers in each region.


FLOYD MERRYMAN III EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, SONNY MERRYMAN INC., LYNCHBURG


Merryman has been with the firm his father created for more than 40 years.


In 1967, Floyd W. “Sonny” Merryman Jr. founded Sonny


Merryman Inc. as a small bus and trailer sales business operating out of Rustburg. Since then, it has grown to be one of the state’s largest bus dealers, with four locations and hundreds of employees. The company works with several industries, although they are best known as a school bus dealer. The Merryman clan has deep roots at Virginia Tech. Floyd Merryman III was a 1981 graduate of the university, and his father graduated in 1946. The family has given millions back to the school over the years, and in 2019, they donated $2 million to be split evenly between the school’s athletic program and the Pamplin College of Business’ Global Business and Analytics Complex, which will open in 2024. In December 2020, Merryman announced that the company would be expanding its Campbell County location to add an electric bus charging facility. Merryman transitioned to the role of executive chairman this July, announcing that former Thomas Built Buses President and CEO Caley Edgerly would become his compa- ny’s new president and CEO.


MICHAL LAGUNIONEK PRESIDENT AND CEO, LIDL U.S., ARLINGTON


Leaders of Lidl, the German discount grocery chain, are hoping they have found the right man to lead an aggressive expansion into the American market. In April, Lidl’s board appointed Lagunionek to lead Lidl’s U.S. operations. As a member of the international board of parent company Schwarz Group, he will also help lead the grocer’s retail strategy in multiple countries. Lagunionek, who is Lidl’s fourth U.S. head since 2013, has been an executive with Lidl for more than 20 years, serving as CEO of its division in Poland between 2005 and 2015 and holding a board position at its headquarters in Germany since then. Trade publication Winsight Grocery Business noted this spring that the grocer saw quick growth in Poland, having grown to become the country’s third-largest chain less than two decades aſter entering Poland. The company, which operates more than 11,200 stores across Europe and the United States, launched its first U.S. store in June 2017. Since then, the chain has opened more than 160 stores along the East Coast, with its head- quarters in Arlington. The company has added more than 50 U.S. stores since January 2020.


KEVIN MURPHY CEO, FERGUSON ENTERPRISES INC., NEWPORT NEWS


Although construction was one of a few industries that kept chugging along during the pandemic, the industry is now coping with supply shortages and high material prices. But Murphy has steered his company and its thousands of employees through the new challenges, benefiting from its status as the country’s largest distributor of commercial and residential plumbing supplies. This year, in addition to dealing with supply chain challenges, Murphy led a “de-merger” with Ferguson’s international wing, selling its U.K.-focused business to a private investment firm for $421 million so the plumbing supplier can focus on continued growth in the United States. The company sees global sales near $22 billion a year, mainly driven by sales in North America. In the third quarter of 2021, Ferguson saw a 24.5% increase com- pared with the same quarter in 2020. A Columbus, Ohio, native, Murphy earned his bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio in 1992. Ferguson purchased Murphy’s family-owned Midwest Pipe and Supply in 1999, and Murphy has held positions with increasing responsibility for Ferguson since then, becoming CEO in 2017 and being appointed group chief execu- tive of Ferguson PLC in 2019.


JERRY MURRELL FOUNDER AND CEO, FIVE GUYS BURGERS ENTERPRISES LLC, LORTON


Back in 1986, Murrell famously told his sons they could either “start a business or go to college.” That advice led to the birth of Five Guys, which now ranks among the world’s 50 largest fast food restaurants.


Murrell graduated from the University of Michigan, where he worked in his frat house’s kitchen. He was working as a finan- cial planner in the D.C. area when he gave his two oldest sons the college or entrepreneurship ultimatum. They opted to use the money set aside for their education to start Five Guys, which opened its first location in Arlington in 1986.


The patriarch and his sons ran the business for 16 years before they decided to franchise, selling more than 300 franchises in 18 months. Murrell and his sons maintain complete control of the Five Guys empire, which now has more than 1,700 locations. Their business approach has been to avoid advertising, instead relying on intense quality control and the burger chain’s fan following. Five Guys generates more than $1.6 billion in annual reve- nue, with locations stretching from the United States to the U.K., the Middle East and China.


www.VirginiaBusiness.com 175


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