Bellingham-based Haggen now under Albertsons’ ownership

Customers come and go from the Haggen at Barkley Village on Thursday, June 2, in Bellingham. The Northwest grocer began its first full day Thursday under Albertsons ownership.
Customers come and go from the Haggen at Barkley Village on Thursday, June 2, in Bellingham. The Northwest grocer began its first full day Thursday under Albertsons ownership. eabell@bhamherald.com

Northwest grocer Haggen began its first official day under Albertsons’ ownership on Thursday, June 2, with very few changes at the local stores.

The sale of Haggen’s 29 core stores to Albertsons for around $106.2 million was finalized Wednesday, June 1, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. Judge Kevin Gross signed an order approving the purchase agreement on Tuesday, March 29.

Albertsons will keep the Haggen store name on 15 of the core stores, including five in Whatcom County. Those 15 stores will be a standalone business unit in the Albertsons company, much like Safeway, Vons and Randalls. The 14 other stores are transitioning to the Albertsons brand.

“We are committed to investing in Haggen’s brand and stores, and applying our proven playbook to foster continued growth of its deep roots in the Northwest,” said Bob Miller, Albertsons Companies chairman and CEO, in a news release. “This is a great opportunity to grow a brand that shares many of our values, including offering exceptional service and the best in fresh, local products.”

John Clougher, who has served as CEO of Haggen, will continue to lead the 15 Haggen stores as group vice president and general manager. In the news release, Clougher said the company will continue to work with regional farms, ranches and fisheries to support a local food economy, something the company was known for prior to being purchased by Albertsons.

While no changes to staffing at the Haggen stores is expected as a result of the ownership change, it appears the corporate office in Bellingham is going through some changes. While not showing how many people were let go, court documents indicate severance packages totaling $382,000 will be paid out by Albertsons. Some of the employees were terminated Wednesday, June 1, while others will end their time at Haggen on July 1, according to the documents.

In a written statement, Haggen officials said they chose to right-size its headquarters to support the number of stores in its business unit by reducing and reassigning staff.

“Some employees took severance packages, and a number of impacted employees were offered positions at the store level,” according to the written statement.

Along with Whatcom County, the grocery stores keeping the Haggen name are in Burlington, Mount Vernon, Stanwood, Snohomish, Woodinville, Oak Harbor, Marysville, Lake Stevens, Auburn and Olympia.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union announced its support for the proposed plan on March 25. The union represents the workers at the Haggen and Albertsons stores and said Albertsons would offer employment to all UFCW members within the Haggen stores.

The sale to Albertsons also brings closure to the end of what’s been a strange, complicated trip for Haggen.

After being purchased by the Florida private equity firm Comvest Partners in 2011, Haggen purchased 146 Albertson/Safeway stores in December 2014, a move that helped Albertsons satisfy a Federal Trade Commission requirement for its merger with Safeway to be completed.

The Bellingham-based grocery struggled to convert those stores to the Haggen brand, leading to Albertsons and Haggen suing each other for damages, lawsuits that were later resolved.

Then came the Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 8, followed by the closing and auctioning off of most of the stores Haggen had purchased.

After several postponements of the core-store auction, Haggen agreed to be purchased.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz