Taking Stock

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‘Round The Trade 

More Supervalu news:  SVU has settled its “non-compete” case against Leon Bergmann, former president of the SVU’s independent business unit. The Eden Prairie, MN retailer/wholesaler filed suit against Bergmann, who left the company about two months ago, when it was later announced he would be joining California-based Unified Grocers, a competitor of Supervalu’s. But everything was worked out and Bergmann, who spent many years at C&S, is now free to ply his trade as senior VP-sales at the Commerce, CA-based wholesale co-op…fast growing Flowers Foods is in another expansion binge. The Thomasville, GA- based baker, which acquired Tastykake in 2011, has agreed to purchase the prime time bread brands and bakeries from Hostess, which closed up shop in November following its second bankruptcy. Flowers will acquire Wonder Bread, Nature’s Pride, Butternut, Home Pride and Merita as well as 20 former Hostess bakeries and 38 depots for $360 million. In a separate deal, Flowers has agreed to acquire Hostess’ Beefsteak brand for $30 million. Still up for grabs are Hostess’ snack brands –Twinkies, HoHo’s Ring Dings, Drake’s Cakes, etc…in food brokerage news, Crossmark, one of the three wholly-owned national food brokerage organizations, last month was sold to  private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Unlike its chief competitors, Acosta (now controlled by Thomas H. Lee) and Advantage Sales & Marketing (now owned by Apax Partners), Crossmark was the only one of the big three that didn’t seek the private equity route from the outset…members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Democratic Congressmen Elijah Cummings (MD) and Henry Waxman (CA), claim that emails leaked to them contradict earlier statements from Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke that he was not aware that executives of his company were handing out bribes to local Mexican officials, in a scandal that allegedly began in 2004. A November 2005 email from former Wal-Mart International general counsel Maritza Munich was sent to Duke and other executives at the Bentonville, AR retailer informing them of charges related to bribes paid to obtain permits for a store that Wal-Mart wanted to build in Teotihuacan, a site near some treasured Mexican ruins. While the “Behemoth” claimed that it would fully comply with the government’s investigation and would also be  conducting an in-house probe as well, the news of the 2005 emails opens up a new potential can of worms for a company that’s been a continual scofflaw when it comes to following laws and regulations, “It would be a serious matter if the CEO of one of our nation’s largest companies failed to address allegations of a bribery scheme,” said the letter that was written to Duke by Cummings and Waxman. After 10 months of inertia, I think this could become one of the hottest stories of 2013.