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Reports: Weiss family takes American Greetings back to private

BY Jason Owen

NEW YORK — The family that runs American Greetings card company is taking the company back to private, according to published reports.

The New York Times reported today that American Greetings is no longer trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The family that has run the business for more than a century, along with several investors, is said to acquire the Cleveland-based company in April.

The Times reported the acquisition deal is reported to be valued at $580 million, or $878 million after including assumed debt and stock option settlements. The deal closed on Friday.


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Reports: Amazon may expand grocery service to New York

BY Alaric DeArment

SEATTLE – Amazon’s grocery service might be making its way to New York next year, according to published reports.

Citing analysis from SunTrust analyst Robert Peck, EcommerceBytes.com reported that the Seattle-based online retailer may start offering Amazon Fresh in New York in 2014, based on his finding that the company had expanded into a New Jersey warehouse previously used by C&S Wholesale Grocers. 

Amazon has been testing the service in Seattle for six years and recently rolled it out in Los Angeles. In June, The Seattle Times reported that Amazon would give members of its premium AmazonPrime service a 90-day trial of Prime Fresh, which includes the grocery-delivery service. After 90 days of paying the usual $79 annual fee, members would be offered the chance to upgrade to Prime Fresh for $299 per year.

Even if Peck’s analysis is correct, Amazon could find New York a somewhat more difficult place to gain a foothold than Seattle or Los Angeles. FreshDirect and Ahold USA’s Peapod largely dominate the online grocery market there. According to Bloomberg, when Peapod entered the New York market in 2011, it was already the largest online grocer in the country, while FreshDirect, which has been around for a decade, estimated it had about 80% of the market.

Location is another issue. As EcommerceBytes.com noted, the warehouse Amazon is buying is less than 50 miles away from New York and surrounding areas. By contrast, FreshDirect’s distribution centers are located within the city, and it’s building a greenhouse to grow its own produce in the Bronx. Meanwhile, Peapod benefits from the strong presence throughout the city of the Stop & Shop supermarket chain, also owned by Ahold USA.


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Rick LaBerge takes VP of sales role with Mars Chocolate North America

BY Jason Owen

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. — Mars Chocolate North America announced today that Rick LaBerge has joined the company as VP of sales. In his new role leading the Mars Chocolate sales organization, LaBerge will oversee the strategy and execution of its retail management, customer account teams, field sales and customer development. He serves as a member of the Mars Senior Management Team and will play an active role in industry events.

LaBerge joins Mars from Johnson & Johnson where he most recently served as the general manager-Walmart global cross functional team for the consumer products segment. In this role, he oversaw a complex mix of brands and segments across the consumer sector representing $1.6 billion in sales.

In his 20+ years with J&J, Rick has held a variety of sales positions with progressive responsibility in J&J Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals, McNeil Consumer Health Care and Nutritionals and in J&J Consumer Products. Prior to his general manager role, Rick served as VP, OTC medicine customer marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare from 2011 to 2012 and as VP of U.S. field sales from 2009 to 2011.

LaBerge received his undergraduate degree from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from Cornell University.


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