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Tops Markets acquired by Morgan Stanley for $310 million

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Morgan Stanley Private Equity has acquired regional supermarket chain Tops Markets from Ahold for $310 million. Tops operates 71 stores under the Tops Markets and Martin’s Super Food Stores banners and five franchise supermarket grocery stores in the Northeast.

The acquisition, which includes 61 in-store pharmacies, is expected to close by the end of this year.

“Tops is a well-regarded grocer with attractive long-term performance, strong employee relationships and a loyal customer base,” said Gary Matthews, managing director and operating partner of Morgan Stanley Private Equity. “We are excited to continue Tops’ tradition of outstanding service to customers and to maintain its position as a leading supermarket in the region.”

Morgan Stanley is expected to continue operations at the stores, but corporate functions will be relocated to Buffalo, N.Y. Frank Curci, former chief executive officer of Tops, is expected to serve on the board of directors and lead the transition in the coming months.

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Tesco to open first U.S. stores Nov. 8

BY Doug Desjardins

LOS ANGELES British grocery giant Tesco plans to make a big splash with its U.S. debut Nov. 8 by opening 6 stores on one day in Southern California. Tesco said it would open Fresh & Easy outlets in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties that day.

“After great anticipation, we’re thrilled to open our doors to neighborhoods in Southern California,” said Fresh & Easy chief operating officer Tim Mason. He said the 10,000-square-foot stores would provide a fast and convenient experience for shoppers. Tesco plans to open more stores later this year in Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego and has about 30 openings scheduled for 2007 and approximately 350 through 2010.

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Unilever, Sunbeam Back ‘DeGeneres’ Marketing Program

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Unilever and Sunbeam have been named exclusive national sponsors of “Wish You Were Here,” a joint AOL/Warner Bros. Television Group (WBTVG) marketing program for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” according to Marketing Daily.

As part of the marketing program, Unilever’s All small & mighty concentrated laundry detergent is directing a nationwide eco-education program and contest called “Search for the Greenest Grade School in America.” The grand prize-winning school will get $50,000 toward building an eco-friendly playground, among other prizes.

As a supporting sponsor, the Sunbeam Rocket Grill will get prime online branding through the site and integration as an audience prize on the TV show.

“Ellen is one of the most popular personalities on television, and we are excited to partner with Telepictures to create this program that connects Ellen with her fan base across the country,” said Kathy Kayse, EVP of AOL Brand Solutions.

The 10-week program, available at ellen.aol.com, is a cross-platform collaboration between AOL, WBTVG and its Telepictures Productions unit. Visitors to the site can upload their stories, photos and videos with their pitches. DeGeneres will use the stories on her TV show and visit the winner in December.

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