Year in Review: 6 of 2014's Biggest Acquisitions and Mergers

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Wed. December 17th, 2014 - by Christofer Oberst

UNITED STATES - It’s been a whirlwind of a year.

As 2014 winds down, we’ll examine some of the year’s biggest topics in this 3-part series, starting with the abundant amount of mergers and acquisitions that have made headlines.

With 2015 just weeks away, let’s kick off the countdown with another look at some of the deals that have made history in 2014…

Safeway and Albertsons Enter $9 Billion Merger Deal

In March, Safeway and Albertsons announced what could possibly be one of the biggest supermarket deals ever seen. The combined company will span over 2,400 stores, 27 distribution facilities, and 20 manufacturing plants with over 250,000 employees.

Though the merger is yet to close, it’s clear that both Safeway and Albertsons’ division of produce buyers will make a huge impact in the industry.

Earlier this month, both retailers named over 70 executives to begin building their Corporate and Regional teams, including Jerry Callahan, Jerry Noland, Geoff White, Greg Matteri, and Kelly Griffith.

The merger is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Chiquita, Fyffes, and Cutrale/Safra

Another influential merger agreement was announced in March and was subsequently rejected in a surprise move late this year. Chiquita and Fyffes’ billion dollar banana deal was expected to create the world’s largest banana supplier, but once Cutrale and Safra entered the ring, a series of ongoing shareholder discussions and competing bids threw a wrench in the agreement. It was only until October that Chiquita officially rejected Fyffes’ offer and agreed to Cutrale-Safra’s $682 million offer for the company. Chiquita’s overall agreement is valued at roughly $1.3 billion.

The transaction is expected to close in late 2014 or early 2015.

Arthur T. Demoulas Wins Back Control of Market Basket

A number of lawsuits, protests, and years of back-and-forth family strife have finally come to an end this year as Arthur T. Demoulas, the acclaimed CEO of Market Basket, finalized his intention to buy control of the company from his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas.

The controversy reached a boiling point in June as Arthur T. and several other top executives were ousted by Market Basket’s Board of Directors. During the previous summer, the Board had already considered firing Arthur T., claiming he was spending money recklessly and refusing to accept the authority of the Board. Market Basket employees, enraged by this news, demanded that the Board re-instate Arthur T. with “full authority, non-negotiable.”

After weeks of protests, Arthur T. finalized a $1.6 billion deal to acquire his cousin’s 50.5% stake in the company and re-assume his former position as President and CEO.

Since this sale was initially announced, Market Basket has opened three new stores and created 1,300 new jobs.  

Castellini Company Acquires General Produce

In June, the Castellini Company announced its intention to acquire General Produce, Inc., a move intended to expand the company’s reach in perishable distribution into the Southeastern part of the U.S.

Located in greater Atlanta, General Produce is one of the largest produce distribution businesses in the South with a footprint throughout the Southeast. Cincinnati-based Castellini Group of Companies, on the other hand, is one of the largest distributors of fresh produce in the United States.

C&S Wholesale Grocers Acquires Associated Wholesalers Inc.

In September, we reported that C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc. was in talks with Associated Wholesalers Inc. (AWI) to acquire the majority of its assets at a court supervised auction after AWI filed for bankruptcy. By the end of October, C&S had won the auction with a bid that totaled $288 million after a rival bidder drove the price up almost 70% from its initial bid of $170 million. Just a few days later, a United States judge ruled in favor of AWI and paved the way for its acquisition by C&S Wholesale Grocers.

Grocery Outlet Announces Sale to Hellman & Friedman

As we first reported in June, unnamed sources began speculating that Grocery Outlet was exploring a sale that was expected to value the company at more than $1 billion. By August, the retailer had attracted several private-equity suitors but was tight lipped on the situation. Bain Capital, Hellman & Friedman LLC and Roark Capital group were all reportedly showing interest. One month later, we reported that Hellman & Friedman LLC was closing in on the over $1.1 billion deal, again, according to unnamed sources. Just two days later, Grocery Outlet announced its sale to Hellman & Friedman.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our series as we track some of the year’s biggest changes in personnel for the produce industry.