News Watch

ROUNDY'S SUPERMARKETS REPORTED TO SEEK BUYER MILWAUKEE The investment firm that acquired Roundy's Supermarkets five years ago is seeking a buyer for the chain, according to a report last week in the Wall Street Journal. As previously reported in SN, Robert A. Mariano, Roundy's chairman and chief executive officer, had been quoted last year as saying that the chain could be sold in the first half of

ROUNDY'S SUPERMARKETS REPORTED TO SEEK BUYER

MILWAUKEE — The investment firm that acquired Roundy's Supermarkets five years ago is seeking a buyer for the chain, according to a report last week in the Wall Street Journal. As previously reported in SN, Robert A. Mariano, Roundy's chairman and chief executive officer, had been quoted last year as saying that the chain could be sold in the first half of 2007. He recently told SN that he was not aware of any current sale discussions. The company could not be reached for comment on the latest report. According to the WSJ article, Roundy's could fetch as much as $2 billion, based on recent sale valuations in the industry. Since taking Roundy's private, Willis Stein has greatly expanded the chain's retail operations, which include stores under the Pic 'n Save, Metro Market, Copps and Rainbow banners, while selling off much of its distribution business.

UFCW, GELSON'S REACH TENTATIVE LABOR AGREEMENT

LOS ANGELES — Gelson's Markets and the United Food and Commercial Workers negotiated a tentative agreement to replace the contract expiring on March 5, the UFCW said last week. The proposed contract, which is pending union approval, would eliminate two-tier wages and require that 60% of all employees work full time, the union said. Published reports last week said Gelson's would also guarantee an hourly wage 5 cents higher than what the three national chains in Southern California will give their workers in the next contract. Gelson's, a division of Arden Group here, follows Colton, Calif.-based Stater Bros. Markets in coming to new contract terms. Disagreement over the expiring contract led to a 141-day strike-lockout at Albertsons, Ralphs and Safeway/Vons stores.

DUANE READE TO PURCHASE EIGHT GRISTEDES LOCATIONS

NEW YORK — Drug store chain Duane Reade here said last week it would purchase eight Manhattan Gristedes supermarkets and convert them into drug stores. Terms of the deal, which was expected to be completed by the end of June, were not announced. John Catsimatidis, chairman of Gristedes, declined to identify the stores that were sold but told SN they were currently among the chain's 43 operating stores. “The intrinsic real estate values far exceeded the enterprise value of the business,” Catsimatidis said, adding that the company intends to remain in the supermarket business and is building two new stores.

FRESHDIRECT CO-FOUNDER MULLS NEW VENTURE: REPORT

NEW YORK — Joseph Fedele, the co-founder and former chief executive officer of Internet grocer FreshDirect here, is planning a new food retailing business, according to a report last week in Crain's New York Business. Fedele told the magazine he was seeking space outside Manhattan for the delivery trucks that would be used in the venture.

WEGMANS TO ANCHOR MIXED-USE CENTER IN PA.

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. — Wegmans Food Markets will anchor Worthington Town Center, a 1.6-million-square-foot mixed-use project scheduled to open next year at the site of a former steel plant in Malvern, Pa., developer O'Neill Properties Group here said. The Rochester, N.Y.-based retailer was chosen because “it sets the bar for the grocery industry in volume, customer service and loyalty. No one else comes close,” Brian O'Neill, chairman of O'Neill Properties, said in a statement. “The Worthington site meets all of Wegmans' new site criteria, including great regional access,” Ralph Uttaro, senior vice president of real estate development for Wegmans, said in a statement.