Key development: Orchestrated announced merger of WWRE and GNX.
What's next: Blending cultures and technology of each entity.
Almost like a couple who finally agreed to marry after dating for years, the merger of GlobalNetXchange, Chicago, and WorldWide Retail Exchange, Alexandria, Va., was long awaited and well received by the food industry when it was announced in late April.
"Since GNX and the WWRE were founded more than five years ago, the industry has sought a partnership between the two organizations," said Christopher Sellers, chief executive officer, WWRE, in a statement after the announcement.
Sellers, who became CEO of WWRE in February, is now set to become, as executive chairman, the No. 1 executive at the merged GNX-WWRE company. The merger, which Sellers said was expected to be finalized by the end of this month, brings together 45 of the largest global retailers and suppliers that hail from GNX or WWRE. GNX's customers include Kroger and Kmart, while WWRE's charter members include Ahold, Albertsons, Safeway and Delhaize Group. The new company's name has not been announced.
GNX and WWRE offer some overlapping services as well as unique capabilities. WWRE is noted for its data pool function for the new Global Data Synchronization Network, while GNX provides supplier performance management and private-label product development.
Both companies offer auctions/sourcing and collaborative planning forecasting and replenishment -- applications that will be rationalized, the companies said.
Carolyn Hager, e-commerce manager, Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., a WWRE user, said the GNX-WWRE linkage "provides a stronger and larger base for support [of data synchronization] and more energy to achieve a global vision."
Almost from the moment he joined WWRE, Sellers became involved in determining the feasibility of the merger (which had been tried twice before) and then seeing it through to a conclusion.
"It wasn't my idea, but it was my job to get it done," said Sellers, whose previous roles include co-founder of Syncra Systems, managing director of IRI Infoscan in the United Kingdom, and global director of retail and consumer industries for EDS.
His initial task was to meet personally with each company's board members to "understand the needs of each company and how a merger would address those needs," he said.
Those meetings took him around the world, across 140,000 miles, during his first seven weeks.
Having obtained a consensus to go ahead with the merger, Sellers then tackled the main obstacles. The biggest issue, he said, was "a lack of understanding of each other's business."
The perception of GNX was that of an IPO flush with funding, while WWRE was seen as more of a not-for-profit.
"Those were misunderstandings," he said. "But once we clarified it, we saw the companies had similar goals."
The new company will look at developing some new capabilities, such as a portal over which retailers can share POS data with suppliers. Sellers called this "the Retail Link [Wal-Mart's portal] for the rest of the world."
The GNX-WWRE merger announcement came just a few weeks before Transora, Chicago and UCCnet, Lawrenceville, N.J., announced their own intention to merge.
"We were told their [merger] was a result of ours, but the concept was out there a long time," Sellers said. UCCnet has denied any connection between the mergers.