With the death of Charlotte F. Lehrman, whose late husband Jac Lehrman was one of the founders of the Giant Food chain, the Lehrman family's interests in the $2.2 billion company have passed to a younger generation.
The couple's son, Samuel Lehrman, 36, a Washington real estate developer, has been named to his mother's seat on Giant's board of directors, the company said yesterday. Charlotte Lehrman, who died on Sunday at the age of 70, resigned from the board March 18 because of ill health and chose Samuel Lehrman to replace her.
Charlotte Lehrman owned 125,000 shares of voting stock that entitled her to name three directors to the Giant board. Israel Cohen, chairman of Giant, also owns 125,000 voting shares but is permitted to name four directors, thereby giving him effective control of the company. This arrangement will continue.
It was reported that the Lehrman voting shares will remain in the hands of the Lehrman children, but the details could not be confirmed. The voting shares, which actually control the company, are not traded publicly.
Samuel Lehrman's appointment was approved by the board of directors and he took his seat at the April 17 meeting, the company said.
The Giant Food chain began in the early 1930s when Nehemiah M. Cohen, whose family operated grocery stores in Pennsylvania, met Jac Lehrman, whose family owned a Harrisburg food distributorship. Cohen suggested that they go into the supermarket business in Washington, and the first store opened on Georgia Avenue on Feb. 6, 1936. Today, Giant operates 137 supermarkets under the direction of Cohen's son, Chairman Israel Cohen.
Giant officials and company watchers said they did not expect that Charlotte Lehrman's death would cause any major operational or ownership changes at Giant.
"It's not going to have any adverse effect on Giant Food," said David B. Sykes, senior vice president for finance. "We will miss her as a person. But the business will continue."
As a board member, Samuel Lehrman is expected to represent the interests of his brother and two sisters. Together, they reportedly will retain much of their mother's multimillion-dollar stake in the company.
Until about a year ago, Charlotte Lehrman was reported to own about 2 million shares of Giant "A" stock -- a class of stock that is publicly traded but has no voting power, according to company records. Giant stock has been trading at about $28 a share.
In Giant's February filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the 2 million shares belonging to Charlotte Lehrman appeared to have diminished to 746,000 shares. It was reported that a large number of shares had been distributed within the family, but details were not immediately available.
Samuel Lehrman is president of Lehrco Corp., a real estate development firm that is building an 80,000-square-foot office building at 1300 L St. NW. He also is vice president of Vista Management, a real estate management company with properties in the District, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and is a director of the United Savings Association of Rockville.