Ron Burkle is a self-described opportunist.
As he steers an uncertain path to consolidate the Northeast as he did the West and Southwest, he’s always on the lookout for opportunities, and whatever comes up will determine which direction he goes.
“I’m always being asked what my plans are, but you can’t know what the circumstances are until a company becomes available,” he told SN, “and opportunities come along at a good clip. You simply have to be ready.”
Burkle, managing partner of Yucaipa Cos., Los Angeles, previously assembled a network of Western chains, which he sold to Kroger Co. in 1999 for $13.5 billion.
Now, with Pathmark as a base, Yucaipa has added A&P to form a Northeast core that could ultimately lead to a similar bundling of companies along the East Coast.
“People have told me opportunities like the ones we’ve been involved with come along once in a lifetime,” Burkle noted. “But if you keep your eyes open, those ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunities’ can come around pretty often.”
Burkle isn’t shy about his ambitions. “With Pathmark as a base, we would hope we could acquire other companies and lead consolidation in that part of the country,” he told SN. “We’ve done add-ons everywhere else we’ve invested, and we love doing that.”
However, with A&P struggling, Burkle and his executive management team — headed by Ron Marshall as A&P’s new president and chief executive officer — have to figure out how to stabilize the business.
Bill Bishop, managing partner at Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill., said Burkle exhibits the kind of confident vision and leadership that’s in short supply in the food business today.
“He’s proved in the past he has a brilliant eye for identifying value and building a company up to realize that value and then selling it off. And his other strong point is, he’s able to get money from people to invest, and that’s more important today than it was three to five years ago.”