Kroger is based in downtown Cincinnati.

Since it was first announced in October 2022, The Cincinnati Enquirer, part of the USA TODAY Network, has tracked Kroger’s $25 billion bid to take over rival Albertsons.

One of the largest retail mergers ever, the proposed acquisition affects nearly 5,000 stores nationwide and has drawn controversy, attracting the opposition of politicians as well as consumer and union groups.

While some recent mergers in tech and other industries sport larger dollar values, other numbers reveal the outsize impact of a Kroger-Albertsons combination. The more than 700,000 employees at both companies represent one out of six of all U.S. supermarket, supercenter and warehouse club workers. The rivals’ combined $170 billion food sales are nearly a fifth of America’s $1 trillion grocery market.

Regulators at the Federal Trade Commission have refused to discuss the proposal, but have spent more than a year scrutinizing the deal.

Albertsons employee Shelly Elmquist gathers shopping carts at the Albertsons parking lot in Phoenix in 2023.Albertsons employee Shelly Elmquist gathers shopping carts at the Albertsons parking lot in Phoenix in 2023.

Albertsons employee Shelly Elmquist gathers shopping carts at the Albertsons parking lot in Phoenix in 2023.

Here are highlights of how The Enquirer has covered the merger so far:

2024:

A map of Kroger and Albersons storesA map of Kroger and Albersons stores

A map of Kroger and Albersons stores

State regulators sue to stop merger as talks with federal officials force a delay

The state attorney general for Washington filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down the merger. In his lawsuit, internal chats by Albertsons’ executives revealed company officials doubted the legality of the deal and were skeptical of promises that it would lower prices for consumers. Meanwhile, Kroger said ongoing negotiations with federal and state regulators would delay the completion of the deal as late as mid-August.

More: Before the Washington lawsuit and delay, court records in a California lawsuit revealed that federal regulators weren’t convinced of “the merits” of the deal. Records showed regulators, even after more than a year of scrutiny, were seeking more time to evaluate the deal and related divestiture plans.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing to stop the Kroger merger with Albertsons.Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing to stop the Kroger merger with Albertsons.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing to stop the Kroger merger with Albertsons.

Food prices remain high at the supermarket

As antitrust regulators weigh the proposed merger’s impact on competition and ultimately consumer prices, the latest government data released in January shows food prices remain high.

Inflation at the supermarket (food-at-home costs) has risen higher than the overall cost of living since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in March 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2023:

Kroger now controls almost 50% of grocery sales in its hometown, could it happen elsewhere?

As cities from Seattle to Houston fret about supermarket consolidation, The Enquirer took a look at how Kroger and Walmart amassed dominant market share in Cincinnati. Remember Thriftway and Bigg’s? So does Bill Remke, the former president of his family’s namesake grocery chain. Remke also recounts the family tragedy that forced them to sell the local grocery chain. Meanwhile, Remke Markets’ new owner, Michael Needler, testified before the U.S. Senate about the merger’s potential to squeeze independent grocers like him.

Virginia Newton of Norwood loads bags of groceries into her car at the Norwood Thriftway on the store's final day of business in 2004.Virginia Newton of Norwood loads bags of groceries into her car at the Norwood Thriftway on the store's final day of business in 2004.

Virginia Newton of Norwood loads bags of groceries into her car at the Norwood Thriftway on the store’s final day of business in 2004.

Kroger’s and Albertsons’ plan to reassure regulators

In September, Kroger and Albertsons unveiled a $1.9 billion plan to sell off 413 stores to Piggly Wiggly operator and franchiser C&S Wholesale Grocers. In a bid to show regulators that consumers will have other options, Kroger said it would also shed all of its Marianno’s stores (in Chicago) and QFC stores (in the Pacific Northwest), while Albertsons will shed the Carrs nameplate in Alaska. All in, the two grocers said they’d shed stores in 17 states.

A Piggly Wiggly store in Wisconsin.A Piggly Wiggly store in Wisconsin.

A Piggly Wiggly store in Wisconsin.

Departing Albertsons executives poised to reap millions if deal goes through

Company filings show the top 11 executives at Albertsons could collect almost $190 million in severance packages and other pay upon completion of the merger with Kroger. Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran alone could get between $30 million and $43 million in “golden parachute” and other pay, according to company regulatory disclosures.

Vivek Sankaran CEO at Albertsons Companies, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights hearing on the proposed Kroger-Albertsons grocery store merger, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)Vivek Sankaran CEO at Albertsons Companies, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights hearing on the proposed Kroger-Albertsons grocery store merger, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Vivek Sankaran CEO at Albertsons Companies, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights hearing on the proposed Kroger-Albertsons grocery store merger, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Benefit to Kroger and Albertsons shoppers? About 22 cents per $100 spent

Kroger and Albertsons say shoppers will enjoy lower prices after they merge. The two companies have said they’ll “invest” $500 million in lowering prices on items on shelves. But how does that compare with the companies’ combined $226 billion in sales? Less than 0.25%.

Kay Turnage shops Kroger's new downtown Cincinnati store in 2019.Kay Turnage shops Kroger's new downtown Cincinnati store in 2019.

Kay Turnage shops Kroger’s new downtown Cincinnati store in 2019.

Kroger CEO says company will fight for deal in court

In May, CEO Rodney McMullen told Bloomberg News the company and Albertsons had “committed to litigate in advance” against regulators, if they opposed the merger.

A month earlier, he and Sankaran co-authored an editorial seeking to reassure the public about the merger. In the op-ed piece, the CEOS promised the merger would deliver lower prices, more choices and keep jobs.

Kroger CEO William Rodney McMullen speaks during a Senate committee about the merger in 2022.Kroger CEO William Rodney McMullen speaks during a Senate committee about the merger in 2022.

Kroger CEO William Rodney McMullen speaks during a Senate committee about the merger in 2022.

After months of silence from regulators, antitrust experts believe a fight is brewing

Big mergers happen all the time, right? Maybe not this time. Antitrust experts note that regulators under the Biden Administration have been fighting more big deals – and the proposed Kroger-Albertsons corporate marriage was a very big deal. Also, having the FTC chair label a previous Albertsons merger a “spectacular failure” signals at least a very hard look at the deal.

FTC Chair Lina Khan in 2021.FTC Chair Lina Khan in 2021.

FTC Chair Lina Khan in 2021.

2022:

Skepticism, resistance and doubts over deal mount

Several weeks after the deal was first announced, the FTC has made a key “second request” for information from Kroger about the deal. The disclosure indicates the agency plans an extensive review that will take months. Meanwhile, several state officials say they are investigating the merger proposal over antitrust concerns. Some states also sue over a special dividend payment to Albertsons shareholders that was part of the deal.

An Albertsons grocery store in Boise, Idaho.An Albertsons grocery store in Boise, Idaho.

An Albertsons grocery store in Boise, Idaho.

Kroger CEO tells The Enquirer why he wants to buy his rival

The day the deal was unveiled, The Enquirer asked Kroger’s CEO Rodney McMullen about the deal.

Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen at a Cincinnati store in 2016.Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen at a Cincinnati store in 2016.

Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen at a Cincinnati store in 2016.

Kroger and Albertsons announce their plan to combine

After months of quiet negotiation and days of rumors on Wall Street, Kroger and Albertsons announced their big deal to merge.

Kroger's headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.Kroger's headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.

Kroger’s headquarters in downtown Cincinnati.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Kroger Albertsons merger: What we know so far about the takeover bid

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