Tackling Legal Turbulence

Kristin Seabrook of Pilot Travel Centers discusses working with the Federal Trade Commission, why variety keeps her on her toes, and advancing company goals while staying legally compliant

It takes a talented legal eye to keep pace with the rapid growth of Pilot Travel Centers, but Kristin Seabrook has proven herself more than adept at the job. Since she came on board in 2007, Seabrook helped guide the impressive acquisition of Flying J’s travel centers.

As director, general counsel, and secretary to the board of Pilot Travel Centers LLC, a leading retail-services provider for professional drivers, Kristin Seabrook is at the heart of corporate decision making. “Success happens when preparation meets opportunity,” Seabrook says. “I always strive to be the hardest-working person in the company, so that I am best prepared to take advantage of those opportunities that will enable our company to grow.” Profile spoke with Seabrook about the keys to her success and her future career plans.

Describe your role within Pilot Travel Centers.

I provide legal counsel across company operations. This includes everything from making sure our employment and environmental policies are in line with federal and state regulations to a collateral review and drafting of merchandise, real estate, supply and energy contracts, to corporate governance. Lately, much of my work has centered on real-estate transactions. The company has grown significantly over the past two years—we now have more than 470 travel centers in 42 states and 64 locations in Canada. Each site purchase requires careful legal review. In addition, I manage a team of three attorneys and a real-estate paralegal that frequently review contracts with retailers who operate at our travel centers, such as Subway, McDonald’s, and Denny’s.

Can you discuss your team’s contributions in the acquisition of Flying J’s travel centers?

It was a long process, over a year. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a second request for additional information, and we worked closely with the FTC to get them comfortable with the transaction. Eventually, we had to divest several stores to a major competitor to help keep the playing field even. Overall, I focused on issues such as due diligence, contract drafting and negotiations, and closing documents.

What is Pilot Travel’s market and where does legal counsel fit with these customers?

Traditionally, we cater to the professional driver—a typical Pilot Travel Center features 14–18 diesel lanes. Our travel centers also offer professional drivers showers, a hot deli, fast food/sit-down restaurant options, truck supplies, retail sales, a driver lounge, and overnight parking. [The company] also caters to RV drivers at many of its Flying J travel centers by offering a fueling island, dumping station, and propane sales. Often, my team focuses on customer needs by providing the underlying documents for these amenities, ensuring that our customers are safe, that laws and regulations are followed, that employees are taken care of so they can concentrate on the customer, and that our travel centers are environmentally clean. We focus on noncommercial drivers by ensuring our facilities are clean, safe, and fast.

What do you like best about your current position?

There is never a dull moment. One day I am reviewing a real-estate contract, the next I am offering legal counsel regarding an employee dispute, and then I am reviewing and handling a multihundred-million-dollar merger and acquisition. I like the variety. I also like the fact that, while we are a big company, we function like a small enterprise. We have an open-door policy where we act as a team. If you want to discuss an idea with the senior vice president and CFO, you simply knock on his door, sit down, and talk openly with them. Everyone’s opinion counts. Finally, I enjoy being part of the corporate team. In many organizations, counsel is the “no” person—they often provide the legal reasons why a business idea or deal cannot be done. Here at Pilot Travel Centers, I encourage my team to find solutions that best advance company goals while staying legally compliant. I can exercise my legal training and the business knowledge I gained through my MBA.

Do you have other professional goals you are still working toward?

I always seek opportunities that enable me to build my business savvy. I am also searching for more opportunities to contribute to Pilot Travel Centers’ corporate strategies and success. Overall, I love working for Pilot Travel Centers and look forward to doing my part to help advance rapid growth.