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Local Food Fair among stores sold to Bi-Lo

By Staff
From staff reports
Area grocery stores -- including the Brewton and Atmore Food Fair stores -- have been sold to a Dallas-based company that promises to revitalize the regional supermarket idea.
As of now, there are no plans to close Food Fair or any of the other grocery stores owned by BI-LO and Bruno's. Food Fair is part of the Bruno's chain and was owned by Ahold -- a company based in the Netherlands. Late Wednesday night, Dallas-based Lone Star Funds agreed to purchase the stores from Ahold for a reported $660 million in cash proceeds.
Dean Cohagan, president and CEO of BI-LO and Bruno's, said Lone Star Funds' acquisition of the stores is "a significant vote of confidence."
As of now, there is no set date when the transfer of ownership will take place, and it is unclear what affect it will have on local grocery stores. Most predict the transfer will occur before March 2005.
The purchase does seem to indicate a change in philosophy for both BI-LO and Bruno's stores.
Lone Star Funds is no stranger to the food business, much less, Alabama. The company has more than $13 billion in investments and owns both Captain D's and Shoney's restaurant chains. Lone Star also owns the Wyndham Tutwiler Hotel in Birmingham.
Over the past decade, Lone Star has build a reputation for making "prudent investments and working along with the management teams of its portfolio companies to implement business strategies that create long-term success and value," according to Cohagan.
Along with the food industry, Lone Star Funds also has investments in commercial real estate, golf courses and hotels.
Ahold, which purchased the Bruno's stores in 2001, has hovered on the edge of bankruptcy for the past year, and this sale will allow the company to relieve much of its cash debt.
Len Allen, executive vice president of Lone Star U.S., said his company is excited about the opportunity to build both BI-LO and Bruno's stores back to the top of the industry.