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Giant Eagle might lose LeNature plant to Cadbury

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH Giant Eagle may lose its $20 million purchase of bankrupt LeNature’s bottling plant here, according to court documents filed in western Pennsylvania’s bankruptcy court Wednesday.

Court-appointed LeNature trustee Todd Neilson charged that Giant Eagle “acted in bad faith” by intimidating a competing bidder, according to court documents. Specifically, Neilson claimed that Giant Eagle threatened to pull its business from competing bidder Cadbury Schweppes Beverage Group.

Neilson asked Judge Bruce McCullough to approve the sale of the bottling plant to Cadbury Schweppes for $19 million without conducting another auction. Cadbury Schweppes bid was the second highest compared to Giant Eagle’s bid of $20 million for the bottling plant.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Thursday morning reported that Giant Eagle claims it acted appropriately at all times, and “the complained-of conduct had absolutely no impact on the bankruptcy auction or the sale price.”

By discontinuing the sale of Cadbury Schweppes’ beverages, Giant Eagle estimated that it cut as much as $8 million of sales to Cadbury, according to its court filing. Cadbury Schweppes currently generates some $40 million in beverage sales at Giant Eagle.

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Whole Foods finally acquires Wild Oats after prolonged legal challenge

BY Adam Kraemer

AUSTIN, Texas Whole Foods Market has acquired Wild Oats Markets for $565 million after the Federal Trade Commission failed to block the transaction on concerns that it would reduce competition, Bloomberg reported.

About 97 percent of investors have tendered their shares in favor of the deal, including 84 percent delivered by the end of the day yesterday, Austin-based Whole Foods said in a statement. Completion of the transaction will occur today, spokeswoman Kate Lowery said yesterday in an interview.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman on Aug. 16 denied the FTC’s bid to block the acquisition, saying it did not not violate any antitrust laws. An appeals court last week upheld the judge’s decision, refusing the government’s request that the decision be put on hold.

Whole Foods agreed to buy Wild Oats in February for $18.50 per share. The FTC sued to block the transaction in June, claiming consumers would be hurt by higher prices and decreased competition.

Whole Foods extended the date of its tender offer to Wild Oats shareholders several times, most recently to yesterday, as the company waited for regulatory and legal permission to complete the offer.

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Campbell appoints VP of corporate strategy

BY Tara Smith

CAMDEN, N.J. Campbell Soup Company, branded convenience food products, has appointed Kirk Elliott as its vice president for corporate strategy, making him responsible for the company’s strategic planning process and advancing strategic initiatives.

Elliott, who has more than 20 years of experience in strategy, business development, and line management, joins Campbell from Elliott Oriental Medicine in San Diego, a company he founded in 2005. Before that, he was at Nabisco International for eight years in business development, planning and line management. His experience with Nabisco culminated to managing director, Nabisco Taiwan, Hong Kong & Asia Export.

Elliott also will oversee the company’s licensing program and will report to Carl Johnson, Campbell’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer.

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