The latest rumor working its way around town is that Whole Foods is planning to buy Earth Fare. Whole Foods is the Texas-based natural foods grocery store behemoth, while Earth Fare is an Asheville-based company with about 30 stores in nine states.
Last year, a private equity firm bought an 80 percent stake in Earth Fare. From supermarketnews.com:
Oak Hill Capital Partners said it has acquired an 80% ownership stake in Earth Fare in a move it said would prepare the 25-store natural food chain for “its next phase of growth.”
Oak Hill, a New York-based private equity firm, is buying the share from Monitor Clipper Partners, the Cambridge, Mass.-based firm that had owned Earth Fare since 2006. Monitor Clipper, along with Earth Fare’s current management team led by Jack Murphy, its chief executive officer, will retain a minority ownership. The transaction values the company at $300 million.
It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see to Earth Fare change hands again. This is what private equity firms do, just as we saw last week with the sale of the Grove Park Inn.
Earth Fare started in 1975 as Dinner for the Earth, and its healthy foods would be in line with Whole Foods corporate philosophy. Whole Foods is already planning to build its first store in Asheville, down along Tunnel Road. Earth Fare has locations on the west and south sides of town. With Publix scouting Asheville locations, and Trader Joe’s on the way, could Whole Foods be looking to solidify its place in the Asheville market?
So, just throwing this out there. Anyone have any deets either way?
Image link for Whole Foods.