Sobeys owner to buy Farm Boy for $800 million

Sobeys owner to buy Farm Boy for $800 million

Sobeys owner to buy Farm Boy for $800 million

Ltd., Sobeys' parent company.

"This is a jewel of an asset", Medline told analysts on a call Monday discussing the transaction.

"We do not want to ruin the magic of Farm Boy by trying to integrate them", he said on the conference call.

Farm Boy will be managed separately from Empire's broader operations, according to a media release from Empire.

Farm Boy founder and co-CEO, Jean-Louis Bellemare, will continue in his role for the "long term", according to the release, along with co-CEO Jeff York.

Empire says the deal will allow it to speed up its growth in markets like Toronto and southwestern Ontario, with new sites and the conversion of some existing Sobeys locations. Some Sobeys stores may be converted to Farm Boys.

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Bellemare and his girlfriend - now wife - opened the first Farm Boy store in Cornwall in 1981, expanding to Ottawa the next year. Meetings with the Sobey family and executives at Empire convinced him the was "very focused on the customer experience", he said.

However, he noted that there are some aspects of Empire, such as real estate expertise, that Farm Boy will be able to leverage.

Meanwhile, Empire does not have any other "growth assets" now in its sights, said Medline.

However, it's unclear how much things will change at the popular Ottawa stores known for their fresh produce, locally-sourced products and ready-to-eat prepared foods.

Farm Boy began its private label in 2012 and now offers 500 products.

Ottawa-based Farm Boy, which specializes in "farm-to-table" wholesale, will be acquired from Berkshire Partners, following which it will be set up as a separate company within Empire's structure.

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