Sutton Place Chain Close to Being Sold

WASHINGTON - The upscale Sutton Place gourmet food chain is close to being purchased by Fresh Fields founder Mark Ordan who plans to expand Sutton Place throughout the Northeast with an infusion of up to $50 million, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Though a deal has not yet been made, Ordan told the paper he expects to close a sale "within a week or two." Sutton Place Gourmet Inc. c.e.o. Clifford Smith confirmed that the sale is near but said there is still "work to do" to finalize the deal. Neither would disclose the purchase price.

Ordan, who founded the Fresh Fields chain of supermarkets and sold it to Whole Foods Market Inc., said his partner in the Sutton Place deal is Bear Stearns Merchant Partners of New York, which is providing most of the capital. Some other original investors in Fresh Fields are also involved.

Ordan said he will take over the day-to-day operations of Sutton Place. He also plans to merge the company with his current food business, High Noon, a small chain of upscale
lunch cafes around Washington.

In the 1990s, Sutton Place acquired New York-based Hay Day Markets in New York and Connecticut, and later bought Balducci's, with plans of a national expansion. An online effort failed, and earlier this year Balducci's flagship store in New York's Greenwich Village was closed.

Smith said that even though the Balducci's acquisition "didn't work out," the brand remains a strong private label and the name behind a line of products Sutton Place sells wholesale to other supermarkets. What the company needs now, he said, is more retail stores, but the current investors wanted to cash out rather than expand.
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