Ron Burkle received court approval recently to allow his company, Yucaipa Cos., to take over about 150 Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. Tesco, one of the largest and most successful grocery retailers in the world, could not make a profit with its first U.S. venture, and will now finance Yucaipa's purchase, in addition to paying Yucaipa to assume the chain's liabilities.
Former 7-Eleven CEO James Keyes negotiated the deal with Tesco and has been tapped to lead the effort to do what Tesco could not - squeeze profits out of the operation.
Analysts seem high on Yucaipa's chances, as the company has turned around grocery chains before. In addition, Fresh and Easy's natural food concept is similar to that of Wild Oats Markets, a chain that Ron Burkle invested in and was sold to Whole Foods. Not coincidentally, James Keyes is associated with the group that owns Wild Oats' intellectual property.