Apollo Global to buy US specialty grocery retailer Fresh Market for $1.36 bn

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management yesterday struck a deal to buy US specialty grocery retailer The Fresh Market Inc for about $1.36 billion in cash.

Greensboro, North Carolina-based The Fresh Market had in October hired investment bank JP Morgan Chase to assist in a review of strategic options, including a sale of the company.

Apollo emerged highest bidder in auction for The Fresh Market with a cash offer of $28.50 per share, a premium of around 24 per cent to The Fresh Market's closing share price on 11March.

Under the deal, Fresh Market said it has a 21-day period to solicit superior offers.

The transaction was unanimously approved by the board of The Fresh Market, excepting Ray Berry, chairman and founder of The Fresh Market, who rescued himself from all Board discussions related to the review and from the board vote approving the transaction.

Ray Berry and his son Brett Berry, who collectively own around 9.8 per cent of The Fresh Market's stock, have agreed not to tender their shares to the offer and will rollover the vast majority of their holdings in the transaction with Apollo.

''We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Apollo, which follows a comprehensive review of strategic and financial alternatives that generated interest from numerous parties.  After an open and thorough process, our Board concluded that this offer maximizes value for our

Rick Anicetti, The Fresh Market's president and CEO, said, ''Apollo is a highly-regarded investor, bringing deep industry expertise and financial resources, and we look forward to working with them to build on our progress in achieving our strategic plan to deliver long-term profitable growth.''

Founded in 1982 by Ray and Beverly Berry, The Fresh Market is a chain of gourmet supermarkets.

It operates 186 stores in 27 states, located in the Southeast, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and has plans to expand throughout the country.

The North Carolina-based company posted net income of $63 million last year on revenue of $1.75 billion.