Fresh Market CEO Larry Appel resigns

The former Winn-Dixie executive led the North Carolina company for 2 1/2 years.

  • By Mark Basch
  • | 5:15 a.m. March 12, 2020
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The Fresh Market said last week that CEO Larry Appel resigned, about 2 1/2 half years after the former Winn-Dixie executive joined the specialty grocer.

Fresh Market did not give a reason for Appel’s departure. The company hired Jason Potter, former executive at Canada-based grocery operator Sobeys Inc., to replace him.

Appel spent 10 years at Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. in several executive positions, leaving in 2012 after Winn-Dixie merged with Bi-Lo LLC into the company now known as Southeastern Grocers.

He was hired by Greensboro, North Carolina-based Fresh Market in 2017. 

Two other former Winn-Dixie executives joined Appel at Fresh Market - Mary Kellmanson as chief marketing officer and Dan Portnoy as chief merchandising officer. Fresh Market did not say if those two are remaining with the company.

The company acquired in 2016 by Apollo Global Management LLC was improving operations, according to a report last fall by Moody’s Investors Service.

“Fresh Market’s topline and EBITDA has demonstrated some improvement and we expect credit metrics to improve modestly in the next 12 months,” Moody’s Vice President Mickey Chadha said in a news release as the ratings agency raised its outlook on Fresh Market from “negative” to “stable.”

However, Chadha expressed caution.

“The increasingly competitive and promotional business environment and pricing pressure from larger and better performing competitors in the company’s geographic footprint will make any major improvement in profitability difficult to come by and the risk of a distressed exchange remains high,” he said.

Fresh Market has 159 stores in 22 states, including five in the Jacksonville metropolitan area.

New CEO Potter “has demonstrated an ability to drive revenue and profit growth through innovation as well as improved operations, merchandising and marketing, which are skills that make him the ideal candidate to lead The Fresh Market’s continued turnaround efforts,” Fresh Market Chairman Andrew Jhawar said in a news release.

Reports suggest bidding war for Tegna

A bidding war may be emerging for Tegna Inc., owner of WTLV TV-12 and WJXX TV-25 in Jacksonville and 60 other U.S. television stations.

Reuters news service last week reported Atlanta-based Gray Television Inc., owner of 157 U.S. stations, is offering to buy Tegna for $8.5 billion, including the assumption of debt.

Following that report, The Wall Street Journal reported Apollo Global Management made a new offer to buy Tegna at a price close to Gray’s offer.

Private equity firm Apollo first approached Tegna about a buyout a year ago, according to news reports. 

Meanwhile, funds affiliated with Apollo in December acquired control of Cox Enterprises Inc.’s television group, which operates 14 stations including WFOX TV-30 and WJAX TV-47 in Jacksonville.

If Apollo is able to buy Tegna, it would likely have to divest at least two of the Jacksonville stations.

Tysons, Virginia-based Tegna has not publicly commented on the possibility of a buyout.

Tegna has been under pressure to consider deals by hedge fund Standard General L.P., which owns 9.7% of its stock.

Standard General in January said it is nominating Managing Partner Soohyung Kim and three other representatives for election to Tegna’s 11-member board.

When Tegna added a 12th board member in February, Standard General responded by adding a fifth nominee to its slate of directors.

As news of the new potential bids emerged, Kim said in a release Friday “we stand ready to work with Tegna to help thoughtfully evaluate these proposals.”

Graham takes WCWJ write-down

The other publicly traded company operating Jacksonville television stations, Graham Holdings Co., recorded a write-down in the value of WCWJ TV-17 in the fourth quarter.

Graham, which also owns WJXT TV-4 in Jacksonville, said it incurred a $7.8 million intangible asset impairment charge on the licenses of WCWJ and a station in Roanoke, Virginia, that were both acquired in 2017, according to the company’s annual report.

The write-down was “due to a decline in local market conditions,” the company said in a news release.

Although the value of the Jacksonville CW network affiliate was lowered, Graham touted the operations of the station in its report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“WCWJ in Jacksonville successfully found a niche with their strong syndicated programming lineup in daytime and early fringe,” it said.

Graham, which owns seven U.S. television stations, said revenue in its broadcast division dropped by 8% in 2019 to $463.5 million, due largely to a drop in political advertising. That will certainly turn around in the 2020 election season.

Because of the lower revenue, along with the WCWJ charge and other costs, operating income for the broadcasting division dropped by 27% in 2019 to $152.7 million.

Rayonier AM makes board changes

Struggling Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc. announced changes Friday to the makeup of its board of directors, at the urging of a major shareholder.

The changes include separating the roles of chairman and CEO. 

Paul Boynton will remain president and CEO of the Jacksonville-based performance fibers company but after its annual meeting in May, a new non-executive chairman of the board will be appointed.

Ortelius Advisors, which owns about 5.2% of Rayonier AM’s shares, said in an SEC filing it proposed splitting up the chairman and CEO roles in December. The firm also said after the company announced a fourth-quarter loss from continuing operations of $57 million, it had further discussions about the makeup of the board.

Rayonier AM’s board and Ortelius agreed to put two new directors on the board, the company said.

“We are pleased to have worked collaboratively with the Board and management team to reach this agreement,” Ortelius Chief Investment Officer Peter DeSorcy said in a news release by Rayonier AM.

FRP expands into South Carolina

FRP Holdings Inc. is a Jacksonville-based real estate development company that generally focuses on projects in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C.-Northern Virginia market.

But late in 2019, the company entered into a joint venture with a company named Woodfield Development to build two apartment communities in Greenville, South Carolina.

Although the projects “are a step outside of our traditional geographic footprint, we were impressed with Greenville and felt the growth potential of the market and the track record of our new partner warranted the investment,” FRP said in a news release.

After selling most of its developed properties in 2018, FRP invested about $83.9 million in new projects in 2019 and still has $164 million available, President David deVilliers said in a conference call with investors last week.

“We are constantly in search of opportunities to redeploy proceeds from the sales of our heritage properties,” he said.

FRP reported fourth-quarter earnings more than tripled to $2.45 million, or 25 cents a share.

Black Knight acquires analytics company

Black Knight Inc. said last week it acquired Collateral Analytics, a Honolulu-based provider of real estate analytic products.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Jacksonville-based Black Knight, which provides technology for mortgage lenders, said the acquisition will provide more information and tools for its clients.

Shoreline Equity buys Atlanta wholesale baker

Shoreline Equity Partners LLC said last week it partnered with management to buy Engelman Baking Co., an Atlanta-based wholesale baker which produces breads and rolls.

Terms of the deal were not announced.

Ponte Vedra Beach-based Shoreline was formed last year as a private equity firm targeting businesses with an enterprise value between $25 million and $250 million.



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