JACKSON, Miss. -- Like Ben & Jerry or Batman & Robin, the team of Mike Julian and Ron Johnson obviously works.
ident and chief executive officer and Johnson, hired as general manager of the chain's Richmond division, ultimately becoming executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Then Johnson opted to move to Kash n' Karry Food Stores, Tampa, Fla., as chairman, president and CEO in January 1995 -- a job that lasted until December 1996, when Kash n' Karry was sold to Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C.
That was about the time Julian left Farm Fresh to become CEO of Jitney-Jungle Stores of America here.
His successor at Farm Fresh? None other than Johnson, who was brought in, he told SN, to oversee the sale of Farm Fresh to Richfood Holdings, Richmond, Va.
Once that was done, Julian hired Johnson as Jitney's president and chief operating officer.
Both executives were already directors of Jitney, having been asked to join the board by Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., the New York-based investment firm that acquired Jitney-Jungle in March 1996. All three investor principals knew both men, since they oversaw the 1986 leveraged buyout of Farm Fresh in 1986 by Citicorp Venture Capital. When the three investors started their own company, they asked Julian to be part of the team assessing an LBO of Jitney-Jungle.
"I was offered the opportunity to invest in Jitney and become a director," Julian recalled, "and Ron, who was president of Kash n' Karry at the time, was given the same offer, so we've been involved in this company since Day One of the new ownership." In late 1996, at about the same time BRS was deciding to sell Farm Fresh, "Jitney's management team was struggling a little under the leverage created by the LBO, and the president, Roger Friou, said he wanted to retire, and I was asked to join the company," Julian said. Asked what attracted him to Jitney, Julian replied, "It was a very attractive chain with sales of $1.2 billion and a 37% market share in Mississippi. And it had a capital structure you could work with and the promise from BRS that it was committed to growing, including making acquisitions. "And the stores were well run, even though most were just not up-to-date, and they were still making decent profits."