Oregon’s AG sends letter to Albertsons grocery company over merger concerns

By Alex Hasenstab (OPB)
Nov. 7, 2022 10:06 p.m. Updated: Nov. 7, 2022 11:30 p.m.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s office says she plans to fully investigate a proposed merger between grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons, and the related stock dividends.

The companies are significant players in the Northwest grocery market. Kroger owns multiple supermarket chains, including Fred Meyer and QFC, while Albertsons owns the namesake Albertsons stores and Safeway. Together they make up a large majority of Oregon grocery stores.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in Salem, Oregon, on Feb. 17, 2015.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, shown here in this 2015 file photo, has sent a letter to Albertsons expressing her support of a recent court ruling in Washington state that has halted the company's payout of $4 billion in dividends as part of a merger with Kroger, the grocery giant that owns Fred Meyer and QFC.

Alan Sylvestre / OPB

The merger is still under review, but Albertsons announced plans to pay out $4 billion in dividends to shareholders. In a letter to the Albertsons board of directors, attorney Tim Nord with the Oregon Department of Justice’s antitrust section said the office supports lawsuits brought against the company.

Related: Kroger and Albertsons plan merger to combine 2 largest supermarket chains

Last week, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson successfully blocked the payments after a King County Superior Court commissioner granted Ferguson’s motion for a nationwide temporary restraining order. Ferguson argued the payout would hinder Albertsons’ ability to compete during the years needed to complete the merger, thus forcing customers to go elsewhere. The lawsuit said the lack of competition diminishes free enterprise and violates state antitrust laws and the Consumer Protection Act. The suit also says the payout would diminish Albertsons workers’ hours and pay.

The Oregon DOJ letter says the office intends to “fully investigate all the conduct of individuals and entities involved in negotiating and determining the ‘special dividend’ in conjunction with a thorough review of the parties’ proposed transaction.”

A Washington state judge will hold a hearing on Ferguson’s legal action Thursday.