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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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Grill manufacturer changes name

BY Brae Canlen

Monessen Hearth Systems Co., a manufacturer of outdoor grills, fireplaces and other heating products, has changed its names to Vermont Castings Group. Under the new name, the company will continue to grow and support its four brands: Vermont Castings, Majestic, Monessen and Ambient Technologies.

“Changing our name will help us leverage the heritage of our iconic Vermont Castings brand to generate growth for our full portfolio of industry leading brands and product lines,” said Dan Clifford, president and CEO of Vermont Castings Group. “We were green long before green was in, and we are proud that our products are manufactured in the USA.”

The overall structure, size and organization of the company remain the same, with headquarters remaining in Paris, Ky. No personnel changes are expected as a result of the corporate name change, according to the announcement.

Vermont Castings Group is a supplier of hearth and grill products throughout North and South America, Asia and Europe. Under its four brands, the company offers full line of direct vent, natural vent, vent-free, wood-burning and electric fireplaces, inserts, log sets and stoves, as well as outdoor grills and heating products.

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