Marsh Supermarkets

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Marsh Supermarkets, Inc.
Industry Retail (Grocery)
Founded 1931
Headquarters Indianapolis, Indiana
Number of locations
Key people
Tom O'Boyle, President and CEO
Products Grocery
Owner Sun Capital Partners
Number of employees
Slogan Treat Your Family Well

Marsh Supermarkets is a retail food chain headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, with stores throughout Central Indiana and parts of Ohio (including metropolitan Cincinnati). Its parent company is Sun Capital Partners, headquarterd in Boca Raton, Florida.


1931-1959: The Ermal Marsh years[edit]

Founded in 1931 in Muncie, the company went public in 1953 and has since grown to 97 locations. Of the 97 locations, 69 are marketed as Marsh Supermarkets, three are O’Malia’s Market and 25 are the MainStreet Market banner. The company's founder, Ermal Marsh, was able to hold together his first store throughout the Great Depression and World War II. After the war ended, Ermal expanded his store into "Marsh Foodliners" and created the first supermarket in Muncie.

In 1952, Ermal had built the first warehouse distribution center for Marsh Supermarkets in Yorktown, Indiana. Within that same year, Marsh stores also introduced their own popular brand of ice cream. In 1953 when the company went public, Ermal had an operation of 16 Marsh Supermarkets. In August 1959 a horrific plane crash near the city of Logansport, Indiana took the life of Ermal Marsh. Estel Marsh, Ermal's brother, was then given the title of president of the company.

1959-2006: The Estel and Don Marsh years[edit]

Adapting to a rising trend, Marsh Supermarkets decided to open a new wave of convenience stores across Indiana. In 1966, the very first Village Pantry store and gas station was opened.

In 1968 as Marsh Supermarkets continued to grow, Estel Marsh was promoted to Chairman of the Board. This promotion cleared the way for Don Marsh, the then-thirty-year-old son of Ermal Marsh, to step forward as the new president. As president, Don was able to be a front-runner in Marsh's progression and adaptation to new technologies.

One of Marsh's most distinguishing features has been its innovation and early adoption of retail technology.[1] On June 26, 1974, a Marsh location in Troy, Ohio, became the first grocery store in the world to use a bar code scanner. The first item scanned was a ten piece pack of gum. [1]

Other endeavors undertaken by Marsh Supermarkets would include the 1995 release of the Marsh Fresh IDEA Card. This card would allow the customer to access several coupons instantly and electronically. Also, Marsh Fresh Express gave way to grocery home delivery. Through Marsh Fresh Express, a customer can buy their groceries over the phone or internet.

In 1991, major changes came to Marsh Supermarkets. The company headquarters moved to a new location along Interstate 69 in Fishers, Indiana. Marsh also released a new plan to re-format the stores, known as the "Supermarket of the Future" campaign. This new format made Marsh Supermarket stores open 24 hours, seven days a week. Also, a full service pharmacy was implemented, along with a "help-yourself" style food court which contained food items ranging from salads to sushi, as well as a bagel shop and espresso bar. In store banks were also installed, as well as Fielding's Playhouse for toddlers, a New York Style Pizzeria, and an ATA travel center. The new policy seemed to implement the area it inhabited, the crossroads of America.

Marsh Supermarkets today relies heavily on their "Fresh" standard of goods and services. Marsh made attempts to expand their Indiana-Ohio market to other areas such as Chicago, but were driven out by larger competition. As competition mounted and growth slowed, Marsh Supermarkets in 2005 began to explore the option of being purchased. In 2006, Sun Capital purchased their first supermarket chain, and returned Marsh Supermarkets to being a private company after 53 years.

2006-2007: Company Scandal[edit]

In 2006-2007 company leaders Don and David Marsh came under extensive scrutiny and scandal according to court records filed. David and Don Marsh both and their attorneys defended the claims against them citing improper and lavish spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel-related expenses in recent years—even though it occurred at a time the company was under increasing financial strain.

Fueling the concern was John Elbin, a former Lilly Industries executive who served as Marsh's CFO from July 2005 until quitting four months later because of disagreements with other senior executives. On the way out the door, court filings show, Elbin passed to the board allegations of improper spending.

Until then, the board's compensation committee had been unaware that David and his father, then-CEO Don Marsh, charged expenses to the company using a special executive voucher system outside the normal expense-reimbursement process, former committee chairman Stephen Huse, a restaurateur whose holdings include St. Elmo Steak House wrote in a statement filed with the court.

In a May 2006 letter to Don Marsh, Huse questioned the CEO's spending more than $279,000 of company money on estate-planning costs for himself and other family members over two years, noting that the limit in his contract for that kind of expense was $10,000 annually.[2]

The company in early 2006 dismissed David Marsh and two of his brothers as part of a broad expense-reduction plan that included store closings. David Marsh contends in the lawsuit that his dismissal should have triggered payments of $738,000 a year for three years—about $34,000 a year more than the company said he was due.

Court records say the board ousted him after he refused to forgo about $1 million in compensation and other benefits in order to make the company more attractive to potential suitors.

Don Marsh countersued, citing severance package benefits to him were improperly withheld by Sun Capital as a result of his ouster. During the trial, numerous examples of lavish personal spending at company expense were revealed in court, company money Marsh spent on wedding gifts for his friends, a $554 Hong Kong tailor's bill from one of Marsh's Asian jaunts, a $4,815 purchase at a diamond shop in Scottsdale, Ariz., on the company credit card. In another example, Marsh would rent his Dominican Republic resort villa to his own company during August and September every year for $495 a day. And he used company money to host frequent company get-togethers at his Saugatuck, Mich., vacation house on the shore of Lake Michigan, where his yacht bore the name "Maison Blanche Research Center". David Marsh also came under scrutiny for lavish spending as well, An African safari that Marsh approved for his son David (then the company's president) and his family. A flight Marsh arranged on the company jet to New York for 14 Marsh family members to catch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.[3]

2006-Present: The Sun Capital years[edit]

Citing increased competition, Marsh announced on November 29, 2005, that it had engaged Merrill Lynch to investigate the possible sale of the company. In April 2006 the company signed a letter of intent to be purchased by an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners, a Florida-based investment firm that specializes in leveraged buyouts. The deal would allow Sun Capital to purchase all outstanding Marsh shares for $11.16 per share, for a total of approximately $88 million.

On September 27, 2006, MSH Supermarkets, Inc., an affiliate of Sun Capital, completed the acquisition of Marsh Supermarkets, Inc. (Nasdaq: MARSA) (Nasdaq: MARSB) (Marsh) for a total purchase price of approximately $325 million. Frank Lazaran was appointed President and CEO of Marsh, as a result of Don Marsh's previously announced resignation.

In June 2007, Sun Capital Partners announced that they would be splitting Village Pantry Convenience Stores from Marsh. Village Pantry now reports directly to Sun Capital Partners.[4]

In May 2011, Frank Lazaran departed as the Marsh President and CEO for family reasons. Sun Capital brought in Joe Kelley as the new President and CEO. Joe Kelley brought over 25 years of experience to Marsh from his past positions at Purity Supreme, A&P, Bozzuto’s, Inc., Adams Hometown Markets and Price Chopper Supermarkets. Kelley left in May 2012 to become president of Stop & Shop's New England Division. Marsh COO Bill Holsworth was appointed as interim CEO as Sun Capital began conducting a nationwide search for a permanent CEO. The search ended in November, 2012, when Marsh named Thomas R. O’Boyle Jr. as the company’s new chairman, president and chief executive officer.[5]


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