Canadian food retailer Empire Co., which owns Sobey’s, announced on Monday it had reached an agreement with Berkshire Partners to acquire Farm Boy, an Ottawa-based fresh grocer specializing in locally-grown, fresh produce and freshly-made, ready-to-eat meals and snacks. Farm Boy began in 1981 and currently operates 26 stores with additional stores scheduled to open.
The $800-million deal will give Empire’s Sobey’s and FreshCo banners in Ontario a much-needed boost in an area that it is underrepresented. Farm Boy will operate as a separate company under the Empire umbrella.
Farm Boy’s co-CEOs will reinvest a 12 percent stake in the business. Farm Boy’s founder and co-CEO, Jean-Louis Bellemare and Jeff York, who has been co-CEO of Farm Boy since 2009, will continue in their roles for the long- term, managing the business separately from Empire’s broader operations and reporting directly to Empire President and CEO, Michael Medline.
“Farm Boy is a superb strategic and financial acquisition. It strengthens our reach in the key Ontario and GTA markets, it will be a growth vehicle in urban and suburban markets, and its strong private label program will bolster our Ocado-driven e-commerce business,” said Michael Medline, President and CEO of Empire.
Co-CEO Jean-Louis Bellemare said, “As you prepare for the next phase of growth, you don’t just team up with anyone. Empire understands what it will take, shares our vision for the brand, and in President and CEO Michael Medline and CFO Mike Vels, we have access to executive leadership with deep experience in making acquisitions like this successful. We had many choices, but our trust and confidence in Empire and its dedication to our brand and its growth made this the perfect partnership.”