Cincinnati (OH) | Boise (ID). (tkc) The Kroger Company and Albertsons Companies Inc. announced that they have entered a definitive agreement with C+S Wholesale Grocers LLC for the sale of select stores, banners, distribution centers, offices and private label brands in connection with their proposed merger previously announced in October 2022.
The proposed merger will create meaningful and measurable benefits for America’s consumers, Kroger and Albertsons associates, and communities that both Kroger and Albertsons serve by expanding access to fresh, affordable food and establishing a more compelling alternative to large, non-union retailers. This comprehensive divestiture plan marks a key next step toward the completion of the merger by extending a well-capitalized competitor into new geographies. The divestiture plan ensures no stores will close as a result of the merger and that all frontline associates will remain employed, all existing collective bargaining agreements will continue, and associates will continue to receive industry-leading health care and pension benefits alongside bargained-for wages.
C+S is an industry leader in wholesale grocery supply and supply chain solutions, with a strong track record as a successful grocery retailer. Founded in 1918 as a supplier to independent grocery stores, C+S services customers of all sizes, supplying more than 7,500 independent supermarkets, retail chain stores and military bases. Grounded in its commitment to feeding families across America, C+S currently operates Grand Union grocery stores and Piggly Wiggly® franchise and corporate-owned stores in the Midwest and Carolinas. C+S is deeply invested in the communities where it operates, and this retail expansion will continue its long-standing mission to keep communities fed. Through its wholesale and retail operations, C+S purchases more than 100,000 products, giving it the ability to provide customers with the best product selection and pricing available. In addition to its franchise and corporate owned supermarkets, C+S provides end-to-end wholesale, supply and marketing services to its retailer customers. C+S also brings experience with the merger process, having been an FTC-approved divestiture buyer in prior grocery transactions with a strong track record of successfully transitioning union employees and their associated collective bargaining agreements. In anticipation of the agreement, C+S’s 1918 Winter Street Partners retail holding company has been established to ensure a seamless closing process. C+S’s depth of industry knowledge, financial strength and commitment to growing its associates’ careers makes it the right fit to ensure the divested stores, distribution centers and offices grow and thrive for years to come.
«Following the announcement of our proposed merger with Albertsons Cos., we embarked on a robust and thoughtful process to identify a well-capitalized buyer who will operate as a fierce competitor and ensure divested stores and their associates will continue serving their communities in the ways they do today. C+S achieves all these objectives,» said Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of The Kroger Co. «C+S is led by an experienced management team with an extensive background in food retail and distribution and has the financial strength to continue investing in associates and the business for the long run. Importantly in our agreement, C+S commits to honoring all collective bargaining agreements which include industry-leading benefits, retaining frontline associates and further investing for growth.»
«We appreciate our incredible associates who support and serve our customers and communities, and who help both of our companies succeed. C+S will offer exciting opportunities for associates to advance their careers – from frontline associates and store leaders to merchants and other professionals. We are confident the associates joining the C+S family will have an amazing opportunity to continue to build a thriving career in the food industry in one of the largest private companies in our country. C+S’s strong operational focus and financial resources, along with a comprehensive operational infrastructure included as part of the divestiture agreement, will position it to successfully operate and continue to grow these iconic brands for years to come. C+S is a values-driven organization that is committed to ending hunger while creating healthier communities.»
The divestiture plan fulfills the commitments Kroger and Albertsons Cos. set out in their original merger agreement in October 2022 with regard to divesting stores, including:
- Extending a competitor to new geographies through the sale of stores to a well-capitalized buyer that is led by seasoned operators with a strong balance sheet and a sound business plan;
- Ensuring that no stores will close as a result of the merger;
- Maintaining all current collective bargaining agreements, which include industry-leading healthcare and pension benefits, bargained-for wages, and ensuring frontline associates remain employed; and
- Committing to invest in associates and stores for the long term.
Kroger took several steps to ensure a thoughtful and comprehensive divestiture plan. The terms of the plan support C+S’s ability to operate divested stores effectively and efficiently by providing:
- Strong teams, with deep industry expertise and the ability to operate at scale, and to drive growth and operational advancements in the divested business;
- A cohesive set of stores in each geography supported by two regional headquarters as well as banners, and private label brands with strong consumer recognition that will provide C+S with an established base on which to grow its store network; and
- A robust operational infrastructure, including distribution centers and offices to support both the immediate and long-term success of the divested business.
«I have long respected C+S and its leadership team,» said Vivek Sankaran, CEO of Albertsons Companies. «I am thrilled that C+S’s outstanding capabilities and financial strength will ensure these divestiture stores can continue to grow and serve their communities as they do today. Most importantly, they have made a clear commitment to continuing to invest in and care for associates, including by honoring all collective bargaining agreements currently in place. I echo Rodney’s confidence in the bright future ahead for the associates joining the C+S team.»
«We look forward to welcoming thousands of new associates to the C+S family and providing them the opportunity to build long and successful careers,» said Eric Winn, Chief Operating Officer and designated Chief Executive Officer (effective October 2) of C+S Wholesale Grocers. «As a leader in the grocery industry, we have a strong heritage of value and customer service that is enabled by a deep commitment to our consumers, employees and communities. Today’s announcement is another exciting opportunity for C+S to further expand into the retail market, which is an important component of our growth and future success. We look forward to providing a superior shopping experience that delivers both quality and value to our customers.»
The divestiture transaction includes 413 stores, along with QFC, Mariano’s and Carrs brand names. Stores currently under these banners that are retained by Kroger will be re-bannered into one of the retained Kroger or Albertsons Cos. banners following the close of the transaction. In the four states where C+S will have the license to the Albertsons banner, Kroger will re-banner the retained stores following the close of the merger with Albertsons Cos. Kroger will maintain the Albertsons banner in the remaining states. In addition, Kroger will divest the Debi Lilly Design, Primo Taglio, Open Nature, ReadyMeals and Waterfront Bistro private label brands.