The Kroger Co. and Albertsons Companies Inc. have entered a definitive agreement with C&S Wholesale Grocers for the sale of select stores, banners, distribution centers, offices and private label brands in connection with their proposed merger previously announced on October 14, 2022.
According to a company press release, this comprehensive divestiture plan marks a key next step toward the completion of the merger by extending a well-capitalized competitor into new geographies. The divestiture plan ensures no stores will close as a result of the merger and that all frontline associates will remain employed, all existing collective bargaining agreements will continue and associates will continue to receive industry-leading health care and pension benefits alongside bargained-for wages.
“Following the announcement of our proposed merger with Albertsons Cos., we embarked on a robust and thoughtful process to identify a well-capitalized buyer who will operate as a fierce competitor and ensure divested stores and their associates will continue serving their communities in the ways they do today. C&S achieves all these objectives,” said Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of The Kroger Co. “C&S is led by an experienced management team with an extensive background in food retail and distribution and has the financial strength to continue investing in associates and the business for the long run. Importantly in our agreement, C&S commits to honoring all collective bargaining agreements which include industry-leading benefits, retaining frontline associates and further investing for growth.”
“I have long respected C&S and its leadership team,” said Vivek Sankaran, CEO of Albertsons Companies. “I am thrilled that C&S’s outstanding capabilities and financial strength will ensure these divestiture stores can continue to grow and serve their communities as they do today. Most importantly, they have made a clear commitment to continuing to invest in and care for associates, including by honoring all collective bargaining agreements currently in place. I echo Rodney’s confidence in the bright future ahead for the associates joining the C&S team.”
C&S is an industry leader in wholesale grocery supply and supply chain solutions, with a strong track record as a successful grocery retailer. Founded in 1918 as a supplier to independent grocery stores, C&S services customers of all sizes, supplying more than 7,500 independent supermarkets, retail chain stores and military bases. Grounded in its commitment to feeding families across America, C&S currently operates Grand Union grocery stores and Piggly Wiggly franchise and corporate-owned stores in the Midwest and Carolinas.
“We look forward to welcoming thousands of new associates to the C&S family and providing them the opportunity to build long and successful careers,” said Eric Winn, Chief Operating Officer and designated Chief Executive Officer (effective October 2) of C&S Wholesale Grocers. “As a leader in the grocery industry, we have a strong heritage of value and customer service that is enabled by a deep commitment to our consumers, employees and communities. Today’s announcement is another exciting opportunity for C&S to further expand into the retail market, which is an important component of our growth and future success. We look forward to providing a superior shopping experience that delivers both quality and value to our customers.”
The divestiture transaction includes 413 stores, along with QFC, Mariano’s and Carrs brand names. Stores currently under these banners that are retained by Kroger will be re-bannered into one of the retained Kroger or Albertsons Cos. banners following the close of the transaction. In the four states where C&S will have the license to the Albertsons banner, Kroger will re-banner the retained stores following the close of the merger with Albertsons Cos. Kroger will maintain the Albertsons banner in the remaining states. In addition, Kroger will divest the Debi Lilly Design, Primo Taglio, Open Nature, ReadyMeals and Waterfront Bistro private label brands.
The number of stores contained in the divestiture plan by geography is as follows:
- WA: 104 Albertsons Cos. and Kroger stores
- CA: 66 Albertsons Cos. and Kroger stores
- CO: 52 Albertsons Cos. stores
- OR: 49 Albertsons Cos. and Kroger stores
- TX/LA: 28 Albertsons Cos. stores
- AZ: 24 Albertsons Cos. stores
- NV: 15 Albertsons Cos. stores
- IL: 14 Kroger stores
- AK: 14 Albertsons Cos. stores
- ID: 13 Albertsons Cos. stores
- NM: 12 Albertsons Cos. stores
- MT/UT/WY: 12 Albertsons Cos. stores
- DC/MD/VA: 10 Harris Teeter stores
The above stores (regardless of banner) will be divested by Kroger following the closing of the merger with Albertsons Cos.
The transaction also provides a comprehensive operational infrastructure including eight distribution centers, two offices, five private label brands and expert district, division and functional associates, to ensure C&S can continue to operate the divested stores competitively and cohesively with no disruption to the associate or customer experience. All fuel centers and pharmacies associated with the divested stores will remain with the stores and continue to operate.
Subject to fulfillment of customary closing conditions, including FTC and other governmental clearance and the completion of the Kroger-Albertsons merger, C&S will pay Kroger an all-cash consideration of approximately $1.9 billion, including customary adjustments.
Prior to the closing, Kroger may, in connection with securing FTC and other governmental clearance, require C&S to purchase up to an additional 237 stores in certain geographies. If additional stores are added to the transaction, C&S will pay to Kroger additional cash consideration based upon an agreed upon formula.
As a result of the comprehensive divestiture plan announced with C&S, Kroger has exercised its right under the merger agreement to sell what would have been the SpinCo business to C&S. Consequently, the spin-off previously contemplated by Kroger and Albertsons Cos. is no longer a requirement under the merger agreement and will no longer be pursued by Kroger and Albertsons Cos.
The merger remains on track to close in early 2024, subject to the receipt of required regulatory clearance and other customary closing conditions, including receipt of clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.
Read more about the pending merger at www.krogeralbertsons.com.