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A Big Win for Knoxville

Meridian Points

Everyone is in a bad mood after Georgia’s domination of the Vols last Saturday. I suggest you forget about that football game, because Knoxville scored a big win on Tuesday when Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced a deal to eventually purchase 80% of Pilot Flying J. The sale’s terms call for Jimmy Haslam to stay on as CEO through 2023, with the family continuing to be involved leading the company even after.

Why is this a big win for our community? All plans call for the headquarters of the nation’s largest truck stop chain to stay in Knoxville. “We’ve never made a move of the home office of any company we’ve bought,” Buffett said Monday night. “We don’t buy companies to change them.” Imagine what a loss to Knoxville it would be to lose the Pilot company headquarters to, say, Georgia. It would mean a loss of jobs, as well as a huge loss to not have the Haslam family involved in our community- a likely occurrence had they sold out to just about anyone other than Berkshire Hathaway.

The Haslam presence in Knoxville extends far beyond jobs. They do so much to make Knoxville a better place for all of us. I count over $11 million they have given to Knox County Schools just in the past few years. Recently the Haslams announced a $1.3 million dollar gift to support our high school academics and marching bands. Last year they gave around $10 million to refurbish and modernize the football fields at 13 area high schools. Included in this gift was an investment in academic support for the high schools based on proposals from the principals. (And if I were to touch on what they have done for us downtown at the University of Tennessee, this article would get very lengthy very fast.)

“We are humbled by the generosity of Pilot Flying J and the Haslam family,” said Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools. “This $10 million commitment is a tremendous opportunity to provide significant enhancements to high school academics, while also recognizing that athletics play an important role in the development of the whole student and in the high school experience.”

Personally, I love that the Haslams chose to give this money to such a wide range of schools. They are focused on helping those who need help most. I do not see anyone else out there buying a Mac computer lab for Carter High or a new synthetic turf field for Austin East.

Big Jim Haslam, Pilot Flying J Founder and Chairman, modestly summed up why his family is such a treasure to Knoxville: “Our family is energized by seeing young people excel in school, as well as sports, music, and other team activities. These students are our community’s future leaders whatever passions they pursue and whether they start their own company or perhaps join the team at Pilot Flying J someday.”

Knoxville is energized by the Haslams making our community such a better place to live.

Meet the Author

Tom Coulter, CPA


Tom is the President and a founder of Meridian Trust. Tom graduated from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in accounting with honors, in 1978. Tom previously worked for the international accounting firm, Deloitte. He later joined the financial medical advising firm, FIS Associates, before founding Meridian Trust in 1997. Tom has worked extensively in retirement planning, taxation, estate and financial planning and investment management. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), and the Tennessee Society of CPAs (TSCPA).

Tom is also credentialed as a Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) by the AICPA.