MENLO PARK, Calif. -- Funeral services were held here last week for Robert J. Foley, a longtime industry consultant and former executive of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington.
n Foley's consulting firm in 1979 and 1980. "Bob lived, breathed, slept and loved the food industry," Gentry told SN last week. "I used to call him 'the world's greatest lobbyist' because he literally lived in hotel lobbies during industry conferences and meetings, seeking out old friends, making new friends and developing relationships to keep up with whatever was going on." Foley got his first taste of the food industry after service in World War II, when he was exposed to food accounts as advertising manager for Everywoman's Magazine after a brief stint as an
administrator at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He subsequently joined Bristol Myers, New York, as sales and marketing director and is credited with being among the first to convince supermarkets to merchandise health and beauty care items in the late 1940s. Foley was executive vice president at GMA during the 1950s and early 1960s, working as No. 2 man to the late Paul Willis. He then joined the Whitehall Laboratories division of American Home Products, Madison, N.J. (then based in New York City), before starting his own consulting firm. Robert O. Aders, a consultant and former FMI president, said Foley was "an extremely effective spokesman for all his clients and he represented a large number of different kinds of companies and managed always to be on top of the nature of his business." One of his earliest consulting clients, friends recalled, was the National Enquirer, which Foley was able to install in virtually every supermarket in the United States, despite the objections of some companies. In 1990, Foley and several acquaintances were accused of insider trading involving nonpublic information obtained in advance of A&P's 1986 purchases of Shopwell, New York, and Waldbaum's, Central Islip, N.Y. To settle the charges against him, Foley agreed to pay penalties in excess of $412,000 without admitting guilt or innocence. Over the years Foley had a variety of partners in his consultancy. His business was most recently called Robert J. Foley & Associates, and was based in Atherton, Calif. Several of his associates spoke with SN last week. According to Clancy Adamy, a partner for 10 years in Adamy-Foley and former president of the National Association of Food Chains (which subsequently merged with the Food Marketing Institute, Washington), "Bob had a tough time early in his life with alcohol, but he lived with it very well. And as a reformed alcoholic, he helped a lot of alcoholics in the food industry and really supported them over the years, and he was a source of immense strength to so many of them."
Carl Nipp, retired president of Hodgkins, Ill.-based Certified Grocers Midwest and a former partner, called Foley "a gifted visionary who was able to bring people together, especially in confrontational relationships between retailers and manufacturers." Byron Allumbaugh, chairman and chief executive officer of Ralphs Grocery Co., Compton, Calif., said Foley was "an interesting guy who knew all the players in this business, which enabled him not only to take care of the business he was there to do but also to add relevant insights in most situations. As a result, anytime you met with him, he gave as much as he took." Al Goulding, retired senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of A&P, Montvale, N.J., told SN that while many people style themselves as consultants, "Foley probably had more true clients over the years than any other consultant in this business, and he was probably the best. Foley is survived by his wife, Lois; two children, Robert Foley Jr. and Lisa Concha-Foley; a stepson, Ford Engelhart Foley, and five grandchildren.