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The board of directors at Indiana-based Marsh Supermarkets, moving to correct a situation in which business was off, debt was oppressive and the possibility of a sale is being considered, decided yesterday to close nine stores and fire four family members from management.

Gone from upper management are David Marsh, the company’s president, as well as Arthur Marsh, Don Marsh Jr., and Joseph Heerens. Remaining are Don Marsh, the company’s founder and CEO, and William Marsh, his brother, who becomes interim president. Twenty other jobs at company headquarters are being eliminated in the moves.

The units being closed are a Marsh supermarket in Fort Wayne, a Savin$ store in Muncie, six of its Village Pantry convenience stores and a Noblesville restaurant. More than 100 jobs will be eliminated through the store closings.

It is estimated by the board that the cost savings of all the moves will be about $12 million annually.

Marsh, a public company, currently operates 70 Marsh grocery stores, 38 LoBill Foods stores, eight O'Malia Food Markets and 160 Village Pantry convenience stories across Indiana and western Ohio.

"This is a time when the Company's management needs to focus their efforts on restructuring the Company's operations, reducing costs and improving profitability. We recognize that these efforts will require sacrifices at many levels, and it is important that the Company's management lead the way," the board said in a prepared statement, adding, "We believe the changes in management are critical to the Company's transformation. We would like to thank each of the executives for their prior contributions to the Company and wish them well in their future endeavors.”
KC's View:
Pretty cold way to get rid of four members of the family that founded the company, but from everything we hear the Marsh situation has been pretty much a mess. Not only is the company foundering, but the separation and impending divorce of former company president David Marsh from Jodi Marsh – who until recently also worked for the company – reportedly has created a climate of tension in the ranks.

Clearly the board is positioning the company for one of two eventualities – to get it into shape to be sold, or to recommit itself to making it once again a thriving enterprise.

We’d bet on the former. We also think that there are a lot of companies out there right now that may be considering their options in terms of the current competitive climate and the consolidation trend that seems to be emerging. Now may be the best time for many of them to sell, because they may never again get dollar offers like may be on the table at this point in time.

There was a lot of talk yesterday at the National Grocers Association convention here in Las Vegas about the strength of independents and regional chains, and how they are well-positioned to stand up to the forces of supercenters and national chains. Well, Marsh has been a major regional player – but for all sorts of reasons, some of them having nothing to do with marketing and merchandising, it doesn’t seem all that well-positioned right now.