News flashes: Albertson's to buy American Stores Co. for $11.7 billion, Ahold to buy Giant Food for $2.6 billion and, looking outside our industry, British Petroleum to buy Amoco for $48.2 billion in the largest-ever industrial merger.
Where will it all end? Only the equity markets know and they seem to be changing fast. But here's another side of the same question: Is anything not for sale?
It seems there is something. Take a look at Page 1 and you'll see a news feature about Raley's Supermarkets & Drug Centers in northern California. The feature, written by SN reporter Elliot Zwiebach, outlines something that's a little different for this acquisition-prone era, namely a chief executive officer saying that the company he heads will remain privately owned, and will not be sold. And, executives of the company are taking steps to make sure the company can be effectively managed, and grow, despite remaining outside the grasp of the equity markets, or, more likely, because of that.
It's not for lack of prospects that Raley's management is opting to remain as it is. "We have been approached, but we're not for sale. Absolutely not," Michael Teal, the 116-store chain's president and newly appointed CEO, told SN.
The appointment of Michael as CEO is an element of Raley's plans to have a management structure in place that can move it along at least another decade or so. The company is also dividing management responsibilities along geographical lines and pushing decision-making down. That, in turn, fosters more decision-making by more people, some of whom will doubtless surface as topside leaders in years to come.
As for future growth sources, Raley's, while vowing not to be acquired itself, has been on the acquisition trail and will continue to be. The company acquired its cross-town rival Bel Air Markets six years ago and in recent months added retailer Nob Hill. Those two acquisitions, plus the core business, brought Raley's top line up to $2.4 billion and management expects to achieve the $3 billion mark during the next year and a half. It's expected that further acquisitions may be made toward the end of 1999, or sooner if an opportunity should crop up unexpectedly. Growth is also to be driven by means of an increasingly aggressive store-opening campaign, plus remodels.
Will the fact that Raley's is privately held, and intends to remain so, contribute to the successful accomplishment of growth goals such as these, assuming they are achieved? The CEO thinks so. "Our uniqueness is defined by our culture and the values we have held for so many years -- values that create an atmosphere for working tougher to achieve our goals."
And, he said, "We're not driven by the whims of the marketplace or of stockholders, but by goals financial as well as cultural."
So imagine that: A family-owned company that has the vision to set financial goals, and other goals, and the perseverance to at least try to see them realized for the benefit of the company, the employees and the customers. Should this story seem a little strange? Let's hope not.