Atlantic Richfield Company, ARCO

Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) is an American oil company with operations in the United States as well as in Indonesia, the North Sea, and the South China Sea. It has more than 1,300 gas stations in the western part of the United States. ARCO was originally formed by the merger of East Coast–based Atlantic Refining and California-based Richfield Oil Corporation in 1966. A subsequent merger in 1969 brought in Sinclair Oil Corporation.



It became a subsidiary of UK-based BP in 2000 through its BP West Coast Products LLC (BPWCP) affiliate. On August 13, 2012, it was announced  that Tesoro would purchase ARCO and its refinery for $2.5 billion. However, the deal has come under fire due to increasing fuel prices, with numerous activists urging state and federal regulators to block the sale due to concerns that it would reduce competition and could lead to higher fuel prices at ARCO stations (ARCO stations make up more than half of all stations with the lowest fuel prices in California). On June 3, 2013, BP sold ARCO and the Carson Refinery to Tesoro for $2.5 billion. BP sold its Southern California terminals (Vinvale, Colton, San Diego, Hathaway, and Hynes) to Tesoro Logistics LP, including the Carson Storage Facility. BP will continue to own the ampm brand and sell it to Tesoro for Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada. BP exclusively licensed the ARCO rights from Tesoro for Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.



ARCO is known for its low-priced gasoline compared to other national brands, mainly due to an early 1980s decision to emphasize cost cutting (cash/debit-only policy) and alternative sources of income (ampm). ARCO is headquartered in La Palma, California.

In 1966, Atlantic merges with the Richfield Oil Company of California. The first CEO was Robert Orville Anderson. The new company boasts a new trademark, a red diamond shape called the ARCO Spark designed by Bauhaus artist, designer, and architect Herbert Bayer. 

Bayer and ARCO

While living in Aspen, Bayer had a chance meeting with the eccentric oilman, outdoorsman and visionary ecologist, Robert O. Anderson. When Anderson saw the ultra-modern, Bauhaus-inspired home that Bayer had designed & built in Aspen, he walked up to the front door and introduced himself. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two men and instigated Anderson's insatiable passion for enthusiastically collecting contemporary art.

With Anderson's eventual formation of the Atlantic Richfield Company, and as his personal art collection quickly overflowed out of his New Mexico ranch and other homes, ARCO soon held the unique distinction of possessing the world's largest corporate art collection, under the critical eye and sharp direction of Bayer as ARCO's Art and Design Consultant.

Overseeing acquisitions for ARCO Plaza, the newly built (1972) twin 51-story office towers in Los Angeles that served as the new company's corporate headquarters, Bayer was also responsible for the ARCO logo and designing all corporate branding related to the company. Prior to the completion of ARCO Plaza, Anderson commissioned Bayer to design a monumental sculpture-fountain to be installed between the dark green granite towers. Originally titled "Stairway to Nowhere" Anderson laughed, but felt the Shareholders wouldn't see the irony; thus he suggested it be named Double Ascension and it still stands between the twin skyscrapers today.


Under Bayer's direction, ARCO's art collection grew to nearly 30,000 works nationwide, managed by Atlantic Richfield Company Art Collection staff. ARCO's collection was eclectic, and consisted of an extremely wide range of media & styles; ranging from contemporary and earlier paintings, sculpture, works on paper (including drawings, watercolors and signed original lithographs, etchings and serigraphs) and signed photographs to tribal and ethnic art from many cultures, as well as historic prints and artifacts, all displayed throughout ARCO's buildings in Los Angeles and several other cities. Three years after ARCO was taken over by BP in 2000, that company's then-chairman, Lord Brown, personally ordered ARCO's art collection liquidated. It was sold through Christie's and LA Modern Auctions.

Bayer made provisions to donate, after his death, a collection of his works which had been housed in ARCO's conference center in Santa Barbara to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The works are currently on loan to the Denver Art Museum. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1979.

2018 History Graphic Design

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