JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie Stores here said it had received bids totaling $38.7 million for 79 of the 326 stores it has slated for disposal. It also said it would seek to shutter the rest of the properties and market them for other uses.
Supervalu, the Minneapolis-based wholesaler, has bid $9.5 million for 37 of the Winn-Dixie stores on behalf of its customers in the region. The stores it is seeking to buy include 27 of the 40 SaveRite supermarkets in the Atlanta market.
C&S Wholesale Grocers, Keene, N.H., and Bi-Lo, Mauldin, S.C., which is a customer of C&S, jointly bid $9 million for another 20 stores in various markets. Harris-Teeter, Matthews, N.C., bid $16.75 million for nine stores in North Carolina, and eight other bidders offered prices ranging from $15,000 to about $1 million per store for one to three stores each.
Bids do not include the cost of inventory. All of the agreements include provisions for the retention of current Winn-Dixie employees at the stores.
Winn-Dixie last month said it would close or sell the 326 stores as part of its bankruptcy reorganization, withdrawing from Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. It is retaining 587 stores in the Southeast and the Bahamas.
The bidders for the 79 stores emerged after a confidential review process that lasted several weeks, during which time Winn-Dixie was marketing the stores specifically to other food retailers. It is possible that other bidders will emerge when the preliminary bids are considered at an auction set to take place July 18 and 19 in New York, according to an attorney for creditors in the case.
"Sometimes people like to wait until the auction to make their move," he said.
In addition, Winn-Dixie said it would continue seeking to identify potential buyers, "particularly for those stores for which there currently is no sale agreement."
"We are working hard to find buyers for additional stores who will continue to operate them as well as offer employment opportunities for our associates," said Peter Lynch, president and chief executive officer, Winn-Dixie, in a prepared statement.
The company said it is requesting permission from the bankruptcy court to close those stores that are not sold at the auction to other food retailers. Supermarket operators will "have had their chance" to bid on the stores by that time, the attorney said, noting that Winn-Dixie's first preference was to have the stores continue to operate as supermarkets.
The court is expected to rule on Winn-Dixie's motions for sale and closure at a hearing scheduled for July 27 to 29. The sales are expected to begin around Aug. 1 and be completed by early to mid-September.
In addition to the 27 Atlanta SaveRite stores that Supervalu bid on, the company also bid for a Winn-Dixie Marketplace store in Atlanta, eight stores in Mississippi and one store in Alabama.
Supervalu could not be reached for comment on the bids. One Supervalu customer in the area, who asked not to be identified, said Supervalu assembled the bids in a group on behalf of several customers in the area to increase the likelihood that the offers would be accepted. The source did not think Supervalu had plans to operate any of the sites as corporate locations. Although Supervalu does not operate traditional supermarkets south of Virginia, its Save-A-Lot limited-assortment banner, based in St. Louis, operates throughout the Southeast.
Supervalu customers listed as part of the wholesaler's bid are All American Quality Foods, Stockbridge, Ga.; Chandler's JKE (location unknown); Chandler's of Weir (location unknown); Kaye Food Cos. (location unknown); Premier Foods, Jacksonville, Fla.; Ramey Enterprises (location unknown); Southeast Foods, Monroe, La.; Triple V, Louisville, Miss.; and Wayfield Foods, Atlanta.
The 20 stores that C&S/Bi-Lo bid on include six in Charlotte, N.C.; three in Chattanooga, Tenn.; three in Huntsville, Ala.; and the rest in various Southeastern markets in several states.
"As part of the Bi-Lo/Bruno's long-term plan, we talked about positioning our company for success in the Southeast with a solid foundation of healthy stores in our core markets," said Dean Cohagan, president and CEO, Bi-Lo/Bruno's, in a prepared statement. "Many of the Winn-Dixie store locations complement positioning in our core markets, and we are interested in purchasing those stores that will help us grow market share."
Ruddick Corp., the parent company of Harris-Teeter, said the nine Winn-Dixie stores that it has bid on were located throughout its core markets in North Carolina. It said it expected to remodel the stores.
Ruddick bid considerably more than the average store price for several sites.
The other bidders for the remaining Winn-Dixies included Alima Corp. (three stores for $690,000); Calhoon Enterprises (two stores for $40,000); Florida Wine and Spirits (one store for $1.05 million); MOMO Management Co. (one store for $75,000); OGA's Enterprises (one store for $450,000); Reynolds IGA (three stores for $900,000); and Tom-Tom Foods (one store for $25,000).