Two of the biggest names in the Washington wholesale grocery business will merge next month, creating the largest food brokerage firm in the Middle Atlantic region.
Kluge, Finkelstein & Co. of Columbia will join with Becton-Deblitz Inc. of Lanham to form Kluge-Becton-Finkelstein-Deblitz.
Their names are not exactly household words, but the products they distribute are: Chlorox, Kal Can, Coca-Cola Foods, Progresso, Nestle, Underwood, Ore-Ida, Faygo, Land O' Lakes, Redi-Whip, Crosse & Blackwell, Alberto-Culver, Chock-Full-O-Nuts, Durkee, Libby's, Westinghouse lightbulbs and many others.
Kluge, Finkelstein and Becton-Deblitz are already the largest food brokers in the Washington area, and the merged company will be the biggest in the region, said David Finkelstein, who becomes chairman and chief executive of the new firm.
Other executive assignments after the merger will be John Kluge, vice chairman; Robert Becton, president; and Kenneth Deblitz, executive vice president.
Becton-Deblitz dates back to 1971, and Kluge, Finkelstein got its start in 1956. Cofounder John Kluge is also the chairman of Metromedia Inc., owner of Channel 5 in Washington and a batch of other broadcasting properties.
As food brokers, both companies sell products for manufacturers who do not have their own sales forces. They handle grocery, paper, health and beauty aids and related products, calling on retailers and wholesalers.
Kluge, Finkelstein has about 60 employes, Becton-Deblitz, 30; most of the employes will be retained, Becton said. After they merge, both companies will operate out of the K-F offices in Columbia.
"We'll be able to provide additional sales and sales service to both the trade and the manufacturers," Deblitz said. Plans are to set up separate sales forces to handle frozen foods and other groceries.
The merger is unique, Deblitz said, in that it will combine two healthy competitors. Often such deals arise when an ailing firm is taken over by a bigger rival.
Merger talks between the two firms began about four weeks ago, and the deal is expected to be completed next month.
"We probably knew each other's strengths and weaknesses as well as anybody can," Becton added. Less than one percent of the lines handled by the two firms overlap, and their sales territories are congruent -- the District of Columbia, Maryland, Northern Virginia and parts of West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.