New owners for Tops in Rome, Sherrill Regulators require sale of 12 stores in Price Chopper, Tops merger to preserve competition

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SCHENECTADY — With the regulatory review process complete and approval from the Federal Trade Commission received, Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops Markets have closed their merger as proposed earlier this year.

The regulatory review process by the FTC mandates the divestiture of 12 of the combined companies’ stores. C&S Wholesale Grocers (C&S) has been approved to purchase all 12 stores.

GU Markets LLC, an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers, will operate these stores. C&S will continue to recognize the union workforce at these locations. The 12 Tops stores to be divested and purchased by C&S Wholesale Grocers are: the Freedom Plaza store in Rome and store in Sherrill locally, as well as locations in Cooperstown, Cortland, Norwich, Owego, Peru, Rutland, Vt., Saranac Lake, Warrensburg and Watertown.

“We believe that this merger will be a positive for our membership, preserving union jobs and strengthening the company’s prospects into the foreseeable future,” said Frank DeRiso, president of the UFCW Local One. “We are pleased that we have an agreement with the new owner and they are committed to retaining all of the existing union jobs and contracts....This merger will benefit both consumers and union members,.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday the agreement would help upstate New York residents of several cities maintain choices and competitive prices when shopping at supermarkets.

In the regions where the divestitures will occur — the Capital Region, Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, North Country, and the Southern Tier — the attorney general’s office said the merger would have eliminated a direct supermarket competitor, leaving a single supermarket in three cities and, one to two other supermarkets in the others.  

By requiring the parties to sell the Tops stores in those cities to C&S, the largest private wholesale grocery distributor in the country, the OAG will help maintain competition in those areas. Additionally, the agreement includes notice provisions that will enable officials to monitor additional acquisitions by the companies and help avoid future harm to competition.

“It’s simple: More choices and competition at the supermarket mean better prices and more savings for consumers,” said James. “As many New Yorkers continue to suffer the financial impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the last thing that should be happening is for supermarkets to let an anti-competitive merger cut choices and raise prices.”

She said, “The agreement that we’re announcing not only ensures that residents of multiple cities across upstate New York will continue to have choices when grocery shopping at Price Chopper and Tops — protecting their wallets from unrelenting price hikes — but it also preserves existing union contracts — protecting workers’ rights and their benefits. My office will continue to do everything in its power to help keep markets competitive for all New Yorkers and protect our workers.” 

Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will be managed locally by their respective leaders and continue to be referred to by their established brand identities, but will be owned and overseen by a new parent company, Northeast Grocery, Inc.

As previously announced, Scott Grimmett, the current president and CEO of Price Chopper/Market 32, will lead the new parent company. He will also serve on its board of directors as will Frank Curci, former Tops Markets chairman and CEO.

The agreement cements an alliance between the two storied independent grocery chains, as it virtually doubles their collective footprint in the Northeast. With increased scale across their now-combined footprint of nearly 300 stores, officials said the merged companies are better positioned to leverage increased value for customers; advance shared opportunities for innovation; and fortify the depth of their expanded workforce, community, and trade partnerships, thereby becoming stronger and more competitive.

“We’re appreciative of the FTC’s diligence in reviewing this merger and grateful to have received all of the necessary approvals. Now, we can dedicate ourselves to bringing these two storied grocery chains together, leveraging best practices, developing new opportunities, and finding efficiencies that will help us continue to deliver distinctive shopping experiences,” said Grimmett.

Blaine Bringhurst will serve as president of the Price Chopper/Market 32 business and John Persons as the president of the Tops Markets business. Dave Langless, the Chief Financial Officer of Tops, will serve as the parent company’s CFO.

Northeast Grocery, Inc. will be headquartered in Schenectady, as will Price Chopper/Market 32. Tops Markets will retain its main office in Williamsville.

“Completing the details of this merger marks a major milestone for the management teams of both Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops,” Grimmett said. “And I’m confident that our teammates and associates are excited about it and will continue to deliver excellence.”

The companies operating Price Chopper and Tops announced their proposed merger in February 2021. While both companies have a large presence in the state — with approximately 150 supermarkets each — the companies largely do not compete head-to-head in most areas. 

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