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Philadelphia Energy Solutions taps its COO to lead company

By Jarrett Renshaw

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Philadelphia Energy Solutions has tapped chief operating officer Gregory Gatta as its next chief executive officer, the refining company said on Wednesday.

Gatta, an investment professional who worked at various private equity firms like Basso Capital Management and Pegasus Capital Advisors, will replace current CEO Phil Rinaldi, who recently announced he was retiring in March.

The transition comes as the 335,000 barrel-per-day refinery, the largest and oldest on the U.S. East Coast, is fighting to survive an industry downturn that has hit the region harder than other parts of the country.

Rinaldi has been CEO of the privately held company since 2010, when The Carlyle Group <CG.O> and Sunoco formed a joint venture to rescue the nearly shuttered Philadelphia refinery. He quickly became the region's strongest advocate for energy expansion as the refinery turned profits off cheap crude flowing out of North Dakota.

The boom turned to bust by the end of 2015, as the Bakken discount to the U.S. benchmark crude price disappeared, production dropped and more pipeline capacity came online.

The refinery has suffered several high-profile setbacks in the past two years, including a failed effort to take the company public, followed by layoffs and benefit cuts amid weak margins.

Moody's and Standard & Poor's have recently downgraded the company's debt amid concerns about falling profits.

(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Chris Reese)