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    Roundy's Could Have New Owners Within 18 Months: Report

    MILWAUKEE - Roundy's Supermarkets, Inc., based here, will likely undergo major changes in the next 18 months, including the possibility of new ownership, said the company's chief executive, according to a local report.

    MILWAUKEE - Roundy's Supermarkets, Inc., based here, will likely undergo major changes in the next 18 months, including the possibility of new ownership, said the company's chief executive, according to a local report.

    The operator of 130 Pick 'n Save, Copps, and Rainbow stores in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota was acquired in 2002 by Willis Stein and Partners, a Chicago investment firm that has a track record of holding companies for five years, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said, adding that on that timetable, a change looms by 2007.

    "It's fair to say that in a reasonable time there's going to be a change in the capital structure in the next year to 18 months," the c.e.o., Robert Mariano, was quoted as saying. He added that "all possibilities are on the table."

    Once Willis Stein decides to divest its interest, Mariano said the owners would hire advisers and go through the usual steps, considering such options as an outright sale to a competitor or another private investor, or a public stock offering.

    Since 2002 Willis Stein has taken Roundy's on an acquisition path that has changed the company from a wholesaler to a retailer, including deals to add Copps in 2001, Rainbow in 2002, and a number of independently owned Pick 'n Save stores since then.

    Speaking about 25 independently owned Pick 'n Save stores around the state of Milwaukee that are currently supplied by Roundy's, Marino predicted that over time, "You'll see us acquire some of them."

    In addition to two new stores Roundy's will open in Wisconsin this year, Mariano said the company expects to build additional new stores in Minneapolis and Wisconsin.

    Roundy's is also interested in buying Jewel-Osco stores, if Supervalu puts some locations up for sale, Mariano noted. As previously reported, Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu will become the second-largest supermarket operator in the United States after its acquisition of Albertsons, Inc., Jewel's corporate parent, closes this summer.

    Sheboygan, Wis.-based Fresh Brands, Inc., which operates Piggly Wiggly and Dick's supermarkets, is also is in the process of being sold to Certified Holdings, Inc., a Chicago-area grocery wholesaler. That deal is expected to close this spring, although Mariano said he is less interested in any Fresh Brands locations that come up for sale as a result of the transaction.

    Commenting on a broader expansion to the south into Chicago, Mariano said expansion could involve the acquisition of another chain. Among the possibilities in Chicago is Dominick's, the chain that Mariano used to run, which is now owned by Safeway, Inc., and Cub Foods, which is going to Cerberus Capital Partners as part of the Albertsons deal.

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