NEWS WATCH

FLEMING RETAINS DEBT ADVISERere has retained Gleacher & Co., a New York-based investment firm, to assist in renegotiating the wholesaler's credit facility amid reports that suppliers could be considering tightening their terms with the wholesaler. Fleming, which lost both its largest customer, Kmart, and its chairman and chief executive officer, Mark Hansen, in recent weeks, also was reported to be

FLEMING RETAINS DEBT ADVISER

ere has retained Gleacher & Co., a New York-based investment firm, to assist in renegotiating the wholesaler's credit facility amid reports that suppliers could be considering tightening their terms with the wholesaler. Fleming, which lost both its largest customer, Kmart, and its chairman and chief executive officer, Mark Hansen, in recent weeks, also was reported to be seeking a crisis-management firm. A Fleming spokesman said he was unaware of any such search.

NASH FINCH SEEKS EXTENSION ON DEBT

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nash Finch here said it would seek a deadline extension from its syndicated credit facility for the filing of its audited fiscal-2002 financial statements, which the company has withheld because of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the resignation of its auditor. The facility has a covenant requiring the statements to be filed by March 28. Nash Finch recently named Ernst & Young as its new auditor, but the company has not yet determined when the statements might be filed. Nash Finch said it would have 30 days to remedy the breach of the covenant by filing the audited statements.

MASTERCARD SEEKS SEPARATE TRIAL

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- MasterCard International here said it will ask for a separate trial from Visa USA, Foster City, Calif., in a class-action antitrust lawsuit brought against the two companies by more than 4 million U.S. retailers, according to published sources. The suit, originally filed in 1996, is scheduled to begin trial April 28 in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

CANADIAN COMPANY BUYS 6% OF PATHMARK

CARTERET, N.J. -- Jim Pattison Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, said it has acquired 6.6% of Pathmark Stores here, according to published reports. Pattison is the corporate parent of Overwaitea Food Group, Langley, British Columbia, which operates more than 100 supermarkets in western Canada.

MARSH PLANS NEW STORE CONCEPT

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marsh Supermarkets here said it plans to open a "new concept" store early next year in Fort Wayne, Ind., at a site more than 30 miles from its closest stores. The store will operate under the Marsh Supermarkets banner, a chain spokeswomen told SN; however, she declined to be specific about what new concept the store will have. Marsh operates 112 supermarkets in Indiana and Ohio.

DISPUTE BREWS OVER STEW LEONARD SITE

NORWALK, Conn. -- Stew Leonard's here said it has run into some opposition over the site of its fourth store, with some residents in the Long Island, N.Y., town of Babylon claiming the store's height could interfere with planes making instrument landings at an adjacent airport. Public hearings are scheduled April 7 to discuss the matter. Stew Leonard's executives told SN they have met all local ordinances and hope to break ground for the store this summer and open it by September 2004.

TRADER JOE'S EYES TWIN CITIES: REPORT

SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. -- Trader Joe's here is looking to build as many as 10 stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market area, according to published reports. However, a company spokeswoman told SN that Trader Joe's does not have plans to open that many stores in the Twin Cities area, but declined to comment on whether the company has any plans at all to enter that market. The published report quoted a Minnesota-based retail broker who said it would take at least two to three years for the company to secure sites and build 10 stores.

WAL-MART TO APPEAL NLRB RULING

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores here said it plans to appeal a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that would require the company to post notices in all stores nationwide declaring that Wal-Mart has violated federal labor law. The ruling -- the first by the NLRB to require action from Wal-Mart on a national basis, according to a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Washington -- came in the case of Brad Jones, a worker at a Kingman, Ariz., store who said he was dismissed by the company for his union activities. The ruling, by Gregory Meyerson, a San Francisco-based administrative law judge, also called for the company to give Jones back his job and pay him back wages.