Neil Golub: ‘Remains to be seen’ whether Price Chopper will pursue Tops stores

April 6, 2018

By Michael DeMasi | Albany Business Review

Neil Golub said today he doesn’t know whether Price Chopper/Market 32 will pursue buying any of the stores owned by Tops Markets, a supermarket chain going through reorganization in bankruptcy court.

“They have to go through their bankruptcy first,” said Golub, executive board chairman of The Golub Corp. in Schenectady, New York. “They’ve got a lot of debris in their way. It remains to be seen.”

Tops Markets LLC, based in suburban Buffalo, filed Feb. 21 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The chain has kept its 169 stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont open as it tries to restructure its heavy debt load.

Many Tops Markets are in small upstate communities, such as Chester, North Creek and Corinth, where local officials, businesses and residents fear losing the only grocery store in town.

Golub told Albany Business Review on Thursday that Price Chopper/Market 32 is considering acquisitions as a growth strategy but said there aren’t many purchase opportunities available. He didn’t identify any chains that are on Golub Corp.’s radar.

The company owns 134 stores in New York and five other Northeast states, with 20,000 employees and an estimated $3.8 billion in sales.

Burt Flickinger, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a consumer consulting firm in New York City, doubted Tops Markets would sell a handful of individual stores to Golub Corp. unless the chain is forced to liquidate.

“Tops is worth much more to everybody involved in the creditor, lender and operator community as a bundled business than a business to be broken up,” he said. “If it’s broken up and sold as individual stores, even the secured creditors would be unlikely to even get a dime on the dollar.”

Eight years ago, the Golub Corp. tried to buy 22 P&C stores when its corporate parent, Penn Traffic, went bankrupt, but Tops Markets won the court battle by offering to buy all of Penn Traffic’s stores.

Flickinger identified a few regional chains that have little or no overlap with the Golub Corp.’s store footprint and could be an acquisition target, including Weis Markets based in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Foodtown in Iselin, New Jersey.

“Typically he [Golub] would want to do something in contiguous markets,” Flickinger said.