Albertsons Chain Sold To Investment Group

Shop owner Mimi Ko said she was “shocked” when she heard about the sale Thursday of Albertsons grocery stores to an investment group.

She was worried about the effect on her business, which is next to one of two Albertsons locations in Redondo Beach.

“We need it,” said Ko, who owns Mimi’s Cleaners. “All my customers go to this market. When they go there, they come here. … It’s so important to me. ”

Minneapolis, Minn.-based SuperValu Inc. said Thursday that it sold its Albertsons stores and four other grocery chains to AB Acquisition LLC, an investment group affiliated with investment giant Cerberus Capital Management L.P. The stock deal was valued at $3.3 billion, including $100 million in cash and $3.2 billion in debt assumption.

Albertsons has been a major financial drag on SuperValu, which has tried to cut losses by closing locations.

In September, SuperValu said it was closing 60 underperforming Albertsons stores, including 18 in Southern California. Some of the affected stores were in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge and Riverside.

In June, Albertsons announced layoffs of as many as 2,500 employees in Southern California and southern Nevada supermarkets. Albertsons has 228 stores in California from the Central Coast to San Diego and eastward to the Inland Empire and Southern Nevada.

Albertsons declined to answer questions about the chain’s future, whether more stores will close or if employees will be laid off.

Spokeswoman Christine Wilcox said in an email that the company will give more details about the sale today after the new owners “officially begin running the stores. ”

In a statement, SuperValu President and CEO Sam Duncan expressed confidence in the sale of the money-losing Albertsons.

“The successful completion of this transaction marks a significant milestone for SuperValu and our shareholders, customers and employees,” Duncan said. “I am pleased to be leading SuperValu during this time of change and strongly believe there is an exciting future ahead for us. ”

Albertsons has faced intense competition from other grocery chains as well as such retailers as Wal-Mart and Target, which often undercut the prices of traditional grocery stores to draw customers who then purchase household goods like children’s clothing and bed sheets.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, an El Segundo-based grocery chain owned by Britain’s Tesco retail giant, has also faced a difficult time getting out of the red. Tesco is currently looking for a buyer or partner for its Fresh & Easy chain, which is spread across Southern California and Nevada.

On Thursday, Jay Sheldon went to the Albertsons in north Redondo Beach to buy propane. He expressed concern for the fate of the employees there.

“If you keep this store open and they treat the employees as well or better, that would be good,” said Sheldon, 64, of Hermosa Beach. “It’s convenient. We’ll come by here and see what their specials are. ”

However, Sheldon offered an observation that speaks to the problems facing Albertsons.

“It’s never that busy,” he said. “The parking is easy here. ”

Reprinted from the Los Angeles Daily News (3/21/2013)