Michael to Retire From Associated Wholesalers

Saunders named president, CEO; board also announces sale of White Rose Food

Associated Wholesalers Inc. (AWI) (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores)

ROBESONIA, Pa. -- Associated Wholesalers Inc. (AWI) has announced that president and CEO J. Christopher Michael is retiring from the company after 41 years of service. Veteran wholesale executive Matthew Saunders has been named president and CEO of AWI, effective immediately.

AWI also announced that its board of directors has decided to pursue a sale of its White Rose Food subsidiary. This action is a key part of steps AWI is taking to set a strategic direction that will provide the cooperative with the opportunity to refocus on AWI's core legacy business.

Michael will remain with AWI as chairman emeritus to help oversee a smooth leadership transition. Saunders joined AWI as executive vice president and COO in 2012. He previously served in leadership roles at Merchants Distributors Inc. and Supervalu.

Joyce Fasula and Mike Rothwell, chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the AWI board, said, "On behalf of the entire AWI board, we want to thank Chris for his extraordinary contributions to AWI and wish him well on his retirement. In his 34 years as CEO, Chris has played an important role in building AWI into one of the nation's leading wholesale cooperatives. We are also pleased to have an executive as talented as Matt ready to assume the CEO role. Matt is a proven leader with extensive experience in our industry, and we are confident that he is the right person to steer AWI into its next phase of growth and development."

The board has formed a special committee to pursue a sale of the White Rose business and has retained Lazard Middle Market as its investment banker to assist in this process. White Rose Food is the largest independent wholesale food distributor in the New York metropolitan area. Through its well-developed logistics and transportation infrastructure, White Rose efficiently services an area ranging from lower New England to upper Virginia. With three core product divisions, grocery, dairy and frozen, White Rose provides customers a wide assortment to meet the many needs of the complex metro market. AWI acquired the business in 2006.

"After extensive analysis, our board has determined that this is the right time to identify a suitable buyer for White Rose. Through this sale process, we intend to position White Rose for a fresh beginning under a new owner. A sale of White Rose will give AWI the opportunity to get back to our co-op roots, with a sharp focus on growing the core business," said Fasula.

Robesonia, Pa.-based AWI is a cooperative food distributor organized to provide flexible distribution and retail services for convenience stores, supermarkets and superettes with grocery, dairy, meat, produce, general merchandise and frozen food products. Retailer services include insurance programs, computer systems, hardware, software, store development, merchandising, advertising, customer service, retail accounting, store equipment and store counseling. These services are fee based and offered through the cooperative on a not-for-profit basis, giving members the highest quality of services available to a chain at the lowest possible cost.