BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A federal judge last week granted Bruno's here permission to buy Seessel Holdings Inc., Memphis, Tenn., ending a six-month tug-of-war with Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City.
U.S. District Court Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, sitting in Memphis, ruled in favor of Bruno's motion for summary judgment and denied a similar motion filed by Fleming. The action paves the way for Bruno's to enter the Memphis market via the acquisition of the 10-store chain.
The decision stems from a legal scuffle that started in June when Seessel's filed a complaint against the two operators, claiming that it did not know which company had takeover rights because it had acquisition agreements with each one.
According to court papers, Bruno's agreed to buy SHI in May. Fleming, Seessel's supplier, was notified of the transaction and had the contractual right to match any prospective buyer's offer. The wholesaler said it planned to acquire Seessel's, but Bruno's claimed Fleming's proposal was not valid. Bruno's and Fleming asked the judge to forgo a trial and rule on documents they filed in federal court.
With the matter resolved, Bruno's will close on the Seessel's deal in December, Lisa Kranc, senior vice president of marketing, told SN. Terms were not disclosed. Fleming could not be reached for comment.
The stores are to continue to operate under the Seessel's banner, and no future name changes are expected at this time, Kranc said. She could not say if the Seessel's logo would be on any potential new stores there.
"We think the Seessel's name has strong equity, and we think it's an important part of the Memphis market. We expect to use the name on [those stores] in the long-term in Memphis," Kranc said. "Memphis is a good market. Seessel's is a strong way to enter the Memphis market."
Bruno's expects a smooth transitional period without service disruptions, Kranc said. She declined to comment about any possible management changes at Seessel's.
Seessel's, a family-operated company founded in 1858, reported $165 million in sales last year. It has the second largest market share in Memphis, where Kroger Co., Cincinnati, holds the top slot. According to Art Seessel, chief executive officer of SHI, "We are delighted that this is over with. We look forward to becoming part of the Bruno's organization. The culture and operating philosophies of our companies are very similar and very compatible."