G. Yafit Said to Eye Buying Mega Supermarket Chain

TV pitchwoman may be offering up to $65 million for food retailer.

Ofer Vaknin

Yafit Greenberg - familiar to Israeli shoppers as the country’s chief TV pitchwoman for any and every consumer product - is offering to buy the Mega in the City supermarket chain for a price sources said could reach as high as 250 million shekels ($64.7 million).

Greenberg, popularly known as G. Yafit, has assembled a group of investors to back her and even made a preliminary offer to Avigdor Kaplan, the CEO of Alon Blue Square, Mega’s parent company. The group is also looking at making offers for other Alon Blue Square subsidiaries, including the filling station chain Dor Alon and the retailers Vardinon and Neeman.

Other buyers have expressed an interest in Mega in the City as the supermarket chain struggles with a heavy debt load of some 900 million shekels and slumping sales. Earlier this month it agreed in separate deals to sell its discount You sub-brand to Rami Levy, Victory, Yohananoff and Machsanei Hashuk, four rival food retailers, for a combined 120 million shekels.

Although Kaplan has said the controlling shareholders of Alon Blue Square – which include Shraga Biran, David Weismann and the kibbutz purchasing organization – want to retain the Mega in the City chain, he has met with potential buyers. But the talks with Greenberg appear to have advanced further than those with other potential buyers, which include the brothers Zwi and Joseph Williger, who used to control food importer Willi-Food.

Alon Blue Square declined to confirm the reports but acknowledged it had received a number of offers for Mega. Greenberg declined to comment, but a source close to her said, “In private conversation Yafit has certainly said she thinks Mega has to be saved” but that any talks “are really not there yet.”

Sources said the 144 stores of the Mega in the City retailer, which is doing better than the You chain had done, could fetch between 200 million and 250 million shekels.

Greenberg made her first approach on buying the food retailer last May, before the extent of Mega’s financial woes were known and it reached a bailout agreement with creditors, suppliers and labor unions, the last of which took an equity stake in the company in exchange for pay cuts and firings. But the initial contacts didn’t lead to an agreement.

Before that, Greenberg served as spokeswoman for the Mega chain in 2008 and as a part of the campaign it created – a cartoon version of her called Mega Gimmel.

But Greenberg, who is not just a presenter but heads a major advertising business, has bought and tried to buy other high-profile businesses, although not always succeeding. She tried to buy the ailing television broadcast Channel 10 and the directory publisher Golden Pages.

Eighteen months ago, however, she succeeded in leading an investor group that bought another ailing retailer, the book store chain Steimatzky, with a surprise bid. Her son Eyal Greenberg now runs the book retailer, which has moved from heavy losses to profitability.

Right now her investor group for Mega numbers just accountant Raz Shapira, who was also a partner in the Steimatzky deal. But she is trying to recruit other partners, who should be intrigued by her success in turning around Steimatzky.