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SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda - Food Distributors International president and CEO John R. Block assured the association's last-ever Midyear Executive Conference on Saturday that wholesalers will continue to have a strong voice after FDI is absorbed by the Food Marketing Institute in January.
FMI president and CEO Timothy M. Hammonds, who shared the podium with Block, told the gathering that, after the merger, issues of concern to wholesalers will be treated "with the importance, the energy, and the priority that they deserve."
Earlier this year the trade groups voted to merge. FDI will become the Wholesale Division of FMI, the nation's largest association of grocery retailers. Through predecessor organizations, FDI traces its history to the founding of the National Wholesale Grocers Association 96 years ago.
FDI's Midyear Executive Conference, which was held in Southampton, Bermuda last week, will be folded into the FMI Mid-Winter Executive Conference, held in January. Other FDI events, including the Productivity Convention and the Annual Business Conference, will continue to be sponsored by the FMI Wholesale Division. Hammonds said FMI has tried over the years to avoid duplicating FDI activities, so there are few overlapping functions to be eliminated. Both he and Block said the consolidation has gone very smoothly, with high levels of cooperation.
In January Block will become executive VP of FMI and president of the Wholesale Division. He said Jeffrey Noddle, chairman and CEO of Supervalu, Eden Prairie, Minn., will become chairman of the division; Richard A. Parkinson, president and CEO of Salt Lake City-based Associated Food Stores, will be first vice chairman; and Ron Marshall, president and CEO of Nash Finch Co. in Minneapolis, will be second vice president.
Hammonds told the wholesalers, "You're continuing your own governance" under the merger. He said the Wholesale Division's governing body was "very deliberately" constituted as a board of directors rather than as an advisory board.
Block said eight wholesalers already sit on the 79-member FMI board, and the merger opens the door for as many as 10 more.