LOS ANGELES -- What will Ron Burkle do for an encore? That was the question people were asking last week about the apparent architect behind the merger agreement between Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and Fred Meyer Inc., Portland, Ore. Burkle is the majority owner and managing partner of Yucaipa Cos., a locally based investment firm that has, in less than a decade, forever changed the face of U.S. food retailing. The Burkle story began simply, with Yucaipa acquiring a series of small chains, ...

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