- Acme Markets, a unit of Albertsons, was the top bidder in a bankruptcy auction for 27 supermarkets operated by East Coast specialty grocers Kings Food Markets and Balducci’s Food Lover’s Market, according to a press release.
- Acme bid $96.4 million for the stores, topping a $75 million stalking horse bid from TLI Bedrock that was announced in August, when KB US Holdings, parent company of the chains, said it was entering bankruptcy. Kings and Balducci’s are expected to keep their own names after the sale closes.
- Albertsons’ intention to keep the Kings and Balducci’s brands operating as distinct banners sets the proceeding apart from the outcomes faced earlier this year by other distressed grocers, which saw once-unified groups of stores dispersed and rebranded.
The decision by Albertsons to add the Kings and Balducci’s names to its portfolio of banners lays to rest the question of whether the two storied regional supermarket chains would retain their identities — or even remain in business — after their owner sank into bankruptcy earlier this year.
Albertsons said it plans to operate Kings and Balducci's as standalone banners in its mid-Atlantic division, which runs stores under the Safeway and Acme brands on the East Coast. The stores Albertsons is acquiring collectively employ more than 2,000 workers, according to an email from PJ Solomon, which is serving as KB’s investment banker as it goes through bankruptcy.
Kings, which operates stores in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut and prides itself for being “Jersey born and bred,” focuses on a specialty assortment that includes items like grass-fed beef and private-label organic popping corn. The Balducci’s chain, which sprang from a New York City vegetable pushcart a century ago, runs gourmet food stores in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia.
The transaction for KB’s stores, which needs regulatory and court approvals to be completed, differs markedly from the hands other hard-on-their-luck grocery chains, like Earth Fare and Lucky’s Markets, were dealt this year. Those companies wound up being broken up, with locations they had formerly run taking on new identities.
Lucky’s, which stumbled after trying unsuccessfully to go up against established competitors, wound up selling locations to Publix, Aldi and Schnuck Markets in bankruptcy. Those sales followed deals Lucky’s made to divest a majority of its stores before filing for Chapter 11.
Southeastern Grocers, which acquired five Lucky’s location in Florida from Lucky’s founders Bo and Trish Sharon in a separate deal, announced in February that it would convert those stores into Winn-Dixie locations.
Earth Fare filed for bankruptcy a day after announcing it would close all of its stores amid financial turbulence brought on by its efforts to compete and expand into new markets. Some former Earth Fare locations have reopened under new ownership, while others, like several turned by new owner Southeastern Grocers into Winn-Dixies in Florida, have taken on new identities.