Stevens sees lawsuit slowing BP-Arco-Phillips deal

Posted: Sunday, March 26, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens said Saturday that a lawsuit filed by Exxon Mobil Corp. will likely bring the pending sale of Arco Alaska Inc. to a standstill.

''I'm convinced that the Federal Trade Commission would have no alternative but to wait and see the outcome of that action,'' Stevens said during a news conference in Anchorage.

Stevens came north from Washington, D.C., for a quick visit to accept an award as ''Alaskan of the Century,'' presented at a Saturday night banquet by the Alaskan of the Year Committee.

BP Amoco PLC has a tentative deal to sell all of Arco Alaska to Phillips Petroleum Co. for $7 billion. That sale is intended to clear the way for BP Amoco to take over the rest of Arco's worldwide oil and natural gas holdings.

The FTC required divestiture of the Alaska assets, saying otherwise a combined BP-Arco would have too much control over North Slope production and West Coast gasoline prices.

But Exxon Mobil, based in Irving, Texas, claims that a contract dating back to 1964 gives it the first right to buy Arco Alaska properties.

BP, Arco and Phillips, however, maintain that their three-way deal is a transfer of Arco Alaska in its entirety. By structuring the deal in that fashion, the companies say, they have bypassed Exxon Mobil's right of first refusal.

Stevens said his staff had been told last week by Exxon Mobil that the oil giant had concerns about the proposed sale of Arco Alaska. He said he didn't know what those concerns were until he heard about the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in Los Angeles.

The senator said he expected to meet with BP Amoco and Arco officials during the weekend, and then with Exxon Mobil executives on Monday or Tuesday.

His selection as Alaskan of the Century was ''a very humbling concept'' that was difficult to accept, said Stevens, 76, who has served in the Senate since 1968 and is now chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

During his time on Capitol Hill, he has authored several key pieces of legislation for Alaska and brought home hundreds of millions of federal dollars for state projects.

Stevens called himself a ''foot soldier'' in Alaska's march to statehood and beyond, and credited several others by name for their roles in leading those battles -- the late Gov. William Egan, U.S. Sens. Ernest Gruening and Bob Bartlett and publisher Robert Atwood.

With tears in his eyes, he said the honor has led him to think back over his five decades of public service.

''It has stimulated a lot of memories -- most of them good, some bad,'' he said. ''All in all, I can't think of anyone who has a better job than I have.''

Stevens shared the 1974 Alaskan of the Year award with the late Native newspaperman Howard Rock. The award has been given for more than 30 years to people who have significantly affected Alaska's character and development.

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