Oregon Officials Remain Silent As The Kroger-Albertsons Deal Draws Increased Attention

Albertsons Deal Draws Increased Attention: In light of the merger plans, the Oregon attorney general wrote Albertsons on Thursday and requested that they postpone a forthcoming dividend payment. After Kroger’s announcement to buy Albertsons more than two weeks ago, Oregon officials have remained relatively silent.

Last month, Kroger revealed plans to purchase Albertsons for close to $25 billion. The combined sales of the two chains exceed $209 billion.

Safeway is owned by Albertsons in Oregon, while Fred Meyer and QFC are owned by Kroger. In the entire state, there are around 200 food stores owned by the two supermarket behemoths.

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Earlier this week, Albertsons received a letter from a bipartisan coalition of six attorneys general from the states of California, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Illinois, and the District of Columbia requesting that the business postpone a Monday dividend payment to its shareholders.

The attorneys general contend that the dividend, which represents almost a third of Albertsons’ $11 billion market value, would deprive Albertsons of the money it needs to compete for a considerable amount of time while government regulators examine the merger, which could lead to more store closings.

Oregon was curiously absent from the letter, a market where Kroger and Albertsons have substantial overlap. On Thursday, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum issued Albertsons her own letter requesting that the company’s board of directors cancel the dividend payment.

In an effort to stop Albertsons from making the payment, the attorneys general for California, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., filed a federal lawsuit against Kroger and Albertsons on Wednesday. The attorney general of Washington State has also brought a state-level lawsuit to try and stop the merger.

What actions Oregon’s top attorney will take are still uncertain. The proposed combination of Kroger and Albertsons “has the potential for a major impact on Oregon consumers and must be properly investigated by state and federal antitrust enforcers,” according to Rosenblum’s office in response to inquiries.

Albertsons Deal Draws Increased Attention
Albertsons Deal Draws Increased Attention

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is “considering her legal options with respect to the excessive shareholder dividend Albertson’s plans to distribute next week,” according to her office. Rosenblum “strongly supports the efforts of the Washington Attorney General to protect customers in the Northwest.”

William Gary, a Eugene attorney who served as deputy attorney general in the 1980s, suggested that Oregon’s low resources, particularly in antitrust cases, maybe one reason why the state has been relatively quiet in comparison to Washington and California.

It all comes down to gathering resources, Gary added. “In the past, the Department of Justice always had a little general fund provision, and it’s a very small budget, to pay antitrust enforcement actions.”

Two of the three candidates to succeed Gov. Kate Brown did not reply to inquiries regarding the merger, and neither did her office.

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According to the third candidate, Democratic nominee Tina Kotek, “the absence of competition will only make things worse.”

Additionally, Kotek noted that the merger would result in more food deserts in rural and low-income areas. We need to make sure that Oregonians are at the center of this discourse, not the financial interests of huge corporate leaders, which is a major reason why I have concerns about this merger.

House Speaker Dan Rayfield, a Democrat from Corvallis, tweeted on Monday that he had “a lot of worries about this proposed merger and its impact on low-income Oregonians,” adding that company leaders might exploit the merger to further the development of food deserts.

Sen. Ron Wyden claimed that he is putting pressure on Albersons’ major shareholder, the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, to postpone the dividend payment because Cerberus is allegedly trying to “loot” the business prior to the sale’s completion.

According to Wyden, “I’ll keep watching over this merger proposal by making sure all parties respond to questions about how this deal could reduce options for consumers, especially in rural Oregon, undercut grocery-store employees, and increase prices at the checkout stand for food shoppers across our state.

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