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RILA sounds off on Affordable Care Act

BY Ken Clark

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) issued the following statement in response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate proposed rules filed early in January in the Federal Register. 

“RILA applauds the Treasury Department for including flexible solutions in the proposed rules, which were developed with input from our member companies and the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition,” said Christine Pollack, VP government affairs. “Employers are committed to providing their employees with quality and affordable health benefits. Nonetheless, with the law’s effective date less than a year away, employers still face enormous challenges and costs to comply with the health law.”

RILA has engaged closely with the Treasury Department and other administration agencies in an effort to shape the complex rulemaking process. Last month in a letter to President Obama, RILA highlighted the effect the overdue rules would have on employers. Specifically, RILA has argued that with no time left to reasonably comply with implementation rules, transition relief is needed to allow employers to adapt existing benefits and design future benefits to comply with the law. 

“RILA appreciates the inclusion of transition relief in the proposed rules for non-calendar year employer-sponsored health plans. However, relief is still needed for the employer-sponsored plans that must comply with the law in less than a year. Without it, well-intentioned employers will be subject to a variety of penalties, and coverage for millions of Americans could be jeopardized,” said Pollack.

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At Sears, D’Ambrosio steps down, replaced by Lampert

BY Ken Clark

Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears Holdings Corp. announced Monday that Louis J. D’Ambrosio will step down as CEO for family health matters at the end of the company’s fiscal year on Feb. 2. Edward S. Lampert will then assume the role of CEO of Sears Holdings, in addition to his role as chairman of the board of directors. 

"The board greatly appreciates Lou’s strong leadership in accelerating the transformation of Sears Holdings, and we understand and respect his personal decision to step down," said Lampert. 

"Lou has guided Sears Holdings during a time of rapid industry change to become a more customer and member-focused company and positioned us to lead in integrated retail," said Lampert in a prepared statement. "His contributions to our company have been significant, and the entire Sears Holdings family wishes Lou and his family the very best." 

Sears has seen comp-store sales decline for six straight years. More signs of struggle for Sears can be found at the bottom line. The company said it expects net loss for the full year ending Feb. 2 to be between $721 million and $801 million.

D’Ambrosio will remain on the board until the company’s next Annual Meeting of Stockholders to be held in May 2013 and will be available to assist with a smooth transition, according to the company.

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Viking Range acquired

BY Brae Canlen

The Middleby Corp. has purchased Viking Range Corp. for $380 million in cash. Headquartered in Greenwood, Miss., Viking is a leading manufacturer of high-end residential cooking ranges, ovens and kitchen appliances. Annual revenues are approximately $200 million

“This acquisition strategically positions Middleby as a leading manufacturer in the sector with a top brand,” said Selim Bassoul, chairman and CEO of the Middleby Corp. “The acquisition of Viking allows us to integrate our own patented technologies that will have a huge appeal to consumers for their residential kitchens. These technologies include speed cooking, induction and truvection.”

The current Middleby brands TurboChef, Jade and MagiKitch’n all have residential platforms that will integrate well with Viking, according to Bassoul. “We are combining leading commercial cooking companies with a leading residential cooking company. We are so excited to take what we’ve learned from the professional chef and bring it to the residential chef,” he continued.

“Our goal is to expand this new residential platform using the same strategy in which we have successfully developed our commercial foodservice and food processing businesses,” Bassoul continued. “This expansion would include growth through future acquisitions, new product introductions and leveraging the current Middleby global sales, service and distribution infrastructure to introduce Viking products in emerging markets.”

Viking was owned by the Stephens Group, a private equity firm.

On a Jan. 2 conference call with investors, Bassoul also discussed domestic growth in the sales of luxury ranges, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

“We believe that the U.S. housing market is now really growing,” Bassoul said. That growth, plus kitchen renovations, should spur sales of professional style cooking equipment, he added. Viking ranges start around $3,000 and can sell as high as $8.000.

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