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The 69-unit Minyard Food Stores has been sold to a Texas-based investment group, ending a 72-year run in which the family-owned company served the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The buyer of the company has been identified as Acquisition Vehicle Texas II, which is part-owned by Ron Johnson, the former CEO of now-defunct Jitney Jungle, and a former executive at Harris Teeter, Food Lion and Bi-Lo. Johnson will replace J.L. "Sonny" Williams as president and chief operating officer, according to a report in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

The Minyard family - including the co-CEOs and co-chairmen of the board, Gretchen Minyard-Williams and Liz Minyard – reportedly will stay with the company through the holidays and then leave the company. Other than that, reports are that no other major changes or store closings are planned.

While the company had received numerous inquiries about its availability for acquisition, Williams told the Star-Telegram that management only “started discussing it four or five months ago and made a decision to see what was out there." A list of prospective buyers was whittled down to four, and the buyer was selected Friday, Williams said.

A clear motivation for the sale was the increased and cutthroat competition in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, which has ratcheted up as Wal-Mart has expanded its presence and market share. It wasn’t that long ago that Albertsons announced a cutback in store personnel and services as a way of keeping costs in line.

In addition to its namesake stores, Minyard also operates deep-discount Sack 'N Save units and Hispanic-oriented Carnival stores. Minyard generates about $930 million in annual sales and employs 5,400.

There is no mention of the same on the company’s website this morning.
KC's View:
Whatever the impact on the stores, one has to imagine that there will be a difference between the company being owned by the name over the door, and the company being owned by an entity with a cuddly name like Acquisition Vehicle Texas II.

The challenges aren’t going to go away for the new owners…and in fact may get tougher as the connection to tradition diminishes.

It doesn’t mean that Minyard’s can’t succeed in its new incarnation…just that we suspect that the new management will have to be ruthless in evaluating assets and liabilities. Acquisition Vehicle Texas II may be saying there won’t be big changes, but we suspect that this only will hold until early next year…at which point, payrolls will be cut and some stores will be sold.

As for the Minyard family…we can’t begrudge them the opportunity to bail out of a business that was becoming increasingly tough and problematic…though it always is a shame when one of the older family-owned companies in this business takes its leave.

One wonders what will happen to Liz Minyard’s chairmanship of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which has until next May to run. She was the first woman to hold that post, but we suspect she’ll have to give it up once she no longer runs the company.