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Kings Grants Gristede's More Time

PARSIPPANY, N.J. - Officials with Marks & Spencer, the British parent of Kings Super Markets, on Wednesday extended an exclusivity agreement with Gristede's Foods Inc., giving Gristede's a couple of weeks more to fund its $155 million purchase of the chain, New Jersey?s Star-Ledger reports.

Gristede's disclosed in a filing with regulators Tuesday it will pay about $155 million for the chain, although the exact price has not been set.

The deal, which also involves Gristede's paying off certain debt, is contingent upon the company successfully selling $175 million in senior notes.

Marks & Spencer spokesman Christopher Hunter-Ward said the British parent company will sign a deal once Gristede's has financing in place. Gristede's Chief Executive John Catsimatidis could not be reached yesterday.

Alan Levitan, the Kings chief executive who once led a management buyout group seeking to acquire the company, said Gristede's still has some "financial hurdles" to overcome. In the meantime, Kings' 2,500 employees will wait.

"There's a great deal of anxiety based on the fact Kings has been for sale off and on for nearly three years," Levitan said. "I strongly believe closure is the most important thing that can happen, so Kings can get on with serving its customers."
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