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    Speculation Swirls on the Fate of AWI, White Rose

    Co-op evaluating acquisition offers

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ

    After weeks of speculation surrounding the fate of regional cooperative Associated Wholesalers, Inc. (AWI), the Robesonia, Pa.-based food distributor said it has received and is evaluating offers from potential buyers to acquire the assets of its namesake organization, as well as its Carteret, N.J.-based White Rose division.

    Affirming that it does not intend to comment unless and until an agreement has been reached, AWI issued a statement on Aug. 22, 2014, which said it "will carefully evaluate [the existing] offers, as well as any additional offers received, with its financial and legal advisors. Please note that there can be no assurances that these discussions will result in any transaction or on what terms any transaction may occur.

    "As it moves through this process, AWI remains focused on running its business efficiently and providing its customers the competitive pricing and outstanding service and support they expect from AWI."

    Lazard Middle Market is serving as financial advisor, and Carl Marks Advisors is serving as restructuring advisor to AWI while Saul Ewing LLP and Rhoads & Sinon LLP are serving as legal advisors.

    As PG previously reported, AWI confirmed it was selling White Rose, which it acquired in 2006, as a key part of steps it is taking to set a strategic direction that will provide the cooperative with the opportunity to refocus on AWI’s core legacy business. White Rose's voluntary wholesale grocery business supplies many smaller urban grocery stores in the five boroughs of New York (Met Food, Associated Food Stores, Pioneer, etc.), as well as premier northeast regional chains like Fairway, Kings/Balducci and Philadelphia's Thriftway/Shop 'n Bag banner group.

    In tandem with the sale announcement of White Rose, AWI longtime president and CEO, J. Christopher Michael, departed from the company after 41 years of service. Veteran wholesale executive Matthew Saunders was chosen as Michael's successor. Saunders joined AWI as EVP and COO in 2012. He previously served in leadership roles at Merchants Distributors Inc. and Supervalu.

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ
    • About Meg Major Veteran supermarket industry journalist Meg Major brings a wealth of experience to her role as Chief Content Editor of Progressive Grocer. In addition to her editorial duties, Major also spearheads the retail food industry’s premier women’s leadership recognition platform, Top Women in Grocery. Follow her on Twitter at @Meg_Major, connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/megmajor, or email her at [email protected]

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