Spartan Shareholder Wants to Sell

May 13, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Spartan Stores brought Craig Sturken in to run the grocery wholesaler/retailer in 2003 to get its struggling business turned around. By most accounts, Mr. Sturken and his team at Spartan have been successful.

Perhaps that explains why the company’s largest investor, the New York investment firm of Loeb Partners Corp., thinks now is the time to sell.

Loeb, according to a report in The Grand Rapids Press, has nominated members to Spartan’s board of directors. The intent is to change the company’s bylaws to enable it to submit a proposal to sell “to the best and highest bidder.”

Jeanne Norcross, Spartan’s vice president of communications, said the company was aware of Loeb’s actions but SEC regulations prevented any comment at this time.

Donald Wierenga, senior financial consultant for Centennial Securities Co., said a proxy fight was all but guaranteed now that Loeb has made its intentions public.

“This will take some of management’s time as they deal with lawyers and litigation to defend themselves. Performance could suffer as a result, but I personally feel that if Spartan gives up control, this will only be the first shoe to drop,” he added.

Moderator’s Comment: Where does Spartan management go from here? Will Loeb’s strong desire to sell have an impact (positive or negative) on Spartan’s
organizational performance?

It’s selling time in retail land and we know this is “just business” as far as Loeb is concerned… but talk about a morale killer.
George Anderson – Moderator

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4 Comments on "Spartan Shareholder Wants to Sell"

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M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago

What can be written after David Livingston’s adroit analysis of the Spartan situation? The best buyer is probably the owners’ group, which would make Spartan a Co-op.

David Livingston
15 years 9 months ago
Spartan has had its share of troubles and they seem to finally be shaking some of it off. Still, they are in the fight of their lives as Wal-Mart and Meijer go to battle in Small Town, Michigan. It’s one of the few areas in the USA where we have two supercenters going head to head in small towns, leaving a trail of skeletal remains anchoring shopping centers. Personally, I think the only reason Spartan’s stock has risen is because it is lightly traded and Loeb has bought so much of it up. The stock is higher because there are fewer shares available to trade, not because Spartan has suddenly improved. It appears that Loeb is just trying to play a “pump and dump” game with the stock. With Spartan’s stock depressed, it did not require a lot of capital to acquire 7% of the stock, so the risk of their game is minimal. While Spartan faces huge sales declines as a result of an onslaught of new Wal-Mart stores, they should recover better than… Read more »
Mark Burr
15 years 9 months ago
Spartan’s performance is strong both on the retail and wholesale side. The turnaround has been diligent, consistent and stable. Loeb’s interest should not impact that or its ability to continue. The senior management has built a strong team. Spartan has disclosed plans to build additional stores, add fuel stations to their stores and will also consider acquisitions. They have also indicated that they are interested in continuing to support the growth of their distribution customers. This type of growth not only helps Spartan but also benefits the consumer. The leadership has been able to substantially reduce the debt and drive focus to their core business. They have sustained well during superstore openings, both local and throughout Michigan. They have and are improving the shopping experience for their customers offering a good alternative. The investment group has their opinion, just like any shareholder has an option to express their opinion. Like any opinion on anything, it can be accepted, rejected or simply taken under consideration. In this case, I see no force of action. Also, keep… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
15 years 9 months ago

Heavy-handed, strokes a financial group.

Tightening Spartans in a hangman’s loop,

They expect a show of loyalty’s mettle

While racing ahead with foot on the pedal.

Now another food chain seems doomed to go,

Victim of a “timely” financial blow.

But do working grocery folks enthuse

When things happen they do not choose?

So we hope for the best and wonder who

Will buy Spartan and become its new glue.

Stay tuned in folks for news yet to arrive

To see if a sale allows Spartan to survive.


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