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Fresh & Easy Grocery Chain Sold to Billionaire Buyer

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Produce at the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market in South L.A. (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
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Financially troubled grocery chain Fresh & Easy has been sold off to a California-based billionaire's equity firm.

Yucaipa Companies, which invests in retail, manufacturing, and distribution and is owned by California native Ron Burkle, will assume the chain's massive debt. Several months ago, its UK parent company, Tesco, divested themselves fully of the struggling El Segundo-based stores.

150 of the chain's 200 stores, mostly in California, will remain open, and those employees will go to work on the Yucaipa payroll. However, "Tesco said the costs of closing up to about 50 Fresh & Easy stores [are] not part of the deal, other expenses and the loan will total no more than 150 million pounds," reports Reuters. The full terms of the sale, however, were not disclosed.

"Fresh & Easy is a tremendous foundation," Burkle said, according to City News Service.

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The full transfer of the business is expected to take three months to complete.

Things aren't going to stay totally status quo, though, at your local F&E; Burkle hinted that changes were afoot—a wise idea, considering the relative failure of the current operations.

"We plan on continuing to build Fresh & Easy into a 'next-generation convenience retail experience,' providing busy consumers with more local and healthy access for their daily needs," Burkle said.

Burkle has been noted for his work with labor unions, which could mean some significant changes for the currently non-unionized store workers.

Fresh & Easy posted a message to their customers online today, noting that the deal saves 4,000 jobs. They added:

For over five years, all of us here at Fresh & Easy have worked hard to bring you great products and a great shopping trip at a great value. We appreciate the love and support we have received from you, our most loyal shoppers. Rest assured, we plan on working through this transition to new ownership with the same spirit and dedication that we’ve brought to this business since the beginning.