An article in Friday's Business section incorrectly reported how much stock the Haft family reportedly has acquired in Stop & Shop Co. It should have said the Hafts have acquired 3 percent, 840,000 shares. (Published 1/17/88)
Washington's Haft family, which suffered a $70 million loss in October's stock market collapse, has returned to the takeover arena by taking aim at Stop & Shop Co., the nation's ninth-largest supermarket chain.
The New England chain, which also owns Bradlees Department Store Co., said yesterday that it had received a letter Wednesday from Herbert Haft, chairman of Dart Group Corp., expressing interest in buying a substantial stake in the company.
Haft, who with his son Robert runs Dart Group, Crown Books Corp. and Trak Auto Corp., said that his family was seeking clearance from federal antitrust officials to buy at least $15 million of Stop & Shop stock.
Haft said in the letter to Stop & Shop that the family "may purchase and hold 50 percent or more of Stop & Shop stock."
Based on yesterday's stock price, the total purchase price for the company's 28 million shares would be at least $600 million. Stop & Shop shares closed yesterday at $21.50, up $1.38 1/2.
Sources close to the Hafts said the Dart-controlled Jefferson Partnership has already purchased about a 3 percent stake in Stop & Shop, or about 8.4 million shares, for slightly less than $15 million.
"We'd be interested in acquiring the business and would like to work with management and employees," Robert Haft said in an interview last night.
The move comes despite the $67 million loss Dart incurred in its $6.3 billion bid last summer for Dayton Hudson Corp., the nation's sixth-largest department store operator. When the stock market collapsed in October, Dayton Hudson's price plunged far below Dart's offering price, making its bid unrealistically high and difficult to finance.
The Hafts started buying Stop & Shop stock late last year for about $18 a share after the stock market collapse.
To buy more than $15 million in shares, the Hafts now need approval from the Federal Trade Commission under federal antitrust laws.
For the past three years, the Hafts have been aggressively trying to buy a retail company. In addition to Dayton Hudson, they have bid for Safeway Stores Inc., the nation's largest supermarket chain, and Supermarkets General Corp., the nation's sixth-largest grocery-store chain.
However, in both these cases, they were outbid by the company's management, which bought the chains through leveraged buyouts. Nonetheless, the Hafts reaped millions of dollars in profits from their stock holdings.
It was unclear how Stop & Shop would react to the Hafts' offer. Officials declined to comment on the Hafts' interest in the company.
Stop & Shop is a far smaller target than the Hafts' previous efforts; it is about one-third the size of Dayton Hudson in terms of revenue. It operates 114 Stop & Shop Supermarkets in New England and 171 Bradlees stores from Virginia to Maine. It had sales of $3.8 billion in its last fiscal year and profits of $38.4 million. Progressive Grocer magazine ranked it the ninth-largest supermarket company in the country.
Stop & Shop "appears to us to be a natural fit," Haft said. "In their supermarket business, they are opening 'superstores,' adding all the categories of merchandise which we have historically done well with -- health and beauty aids, cosmetics, prescriptions, general merchandise. Bradlees stores also have many product categories we have historically done well with. Geographically, they are in areas we know."
Additionally, Haft said, Stop & Shop's smaller size would make an acquisition easier. "Their relative size against our resources means that it gives us a greater likelihood that we can purchase the company," he said.
Dart Group is well-equipped to finance much of the takeover itself. Sources said it now has about $400 million in cash.
Year ended Jan. 31, 1987: Sales..............$3.9 billion... Net income........$38.4 million... Per share.........$1.39...
Nine months ended Nov. 7, 1987: Sales.............$3.1 billion... Net income.......$25.5 million... Per share..........$.91...