LANDOVER -- Shareholders applauded another year of strong earnings. British investor David J. Sainsbury declined to comment on whether his company is going to take over the Giant Food chain. And few minutes passed without a fond invocation of Giant's late chairman, Israel "Izzy" Cohen, who died in November.
In short, it was business as usual yesterday at the Giant Food Inc. annual shareholders' meeting at corporate headquarters, despite the unusual revelations a day before of a pending lawsuit over racial discrimination.
A grand total of one shareholder asked a question during the meeting, and that related to the potential British takeover.
Sainsbury, whose J. Sainsbury PLC is the major grocer in Britain, responded by promising that his company would leave American management in place if it ever moved to gain a controlling share of Giant.
"We feel it's very essential that companies are run by the people that know them. That's our company's philosophy," Sainsbury said. He pointed out that the Shaw's grocery chain in New England retained its management when Sainsbury took over in 1987.
Not that Sainsbury was promising an imminent expansion of his 19.9 percent stake in Giant's nonvoting stock. He also controls half of Giant's 250,000 voting shares, and appoints four of the nine board members.
"We never comment on potential acquisitions," Sainsbury said.
It wasn't hard to draw Sainsbury out a bit on the taboo topic, though. He conceded that if he acquired Giant, he would keep the chain separate from Shaw's as long as their markets remained separate.
Shaw's is moving south, though, and Giant is expanding northward into Pennsylvania and New Jersey, opening eight stores next year.
If there were overlap, Sainsbury said, he would be inclined to merge them.
Sainsbury said he was pleased with the smooth management of the company following Cohen's death.
And President and Chief Executive Officer Pete Manos, named to replace Cohen as chairman of the board, said he did not feel the legendary chief executive cast a shadow over the proceedings.
"I think we've had sufficient time to mourn his loss -- almost a year -- and it's still business as usual. It's really a credit to the team he put in place," Manos said.
The company announced a series of promotions in addition to Manos's elevation on the board. Alvin Dobbin, formerly senior vice president of operations, was named to a new position as executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Dobbin replaces former Chief Operating Officer David B. Sykes, who recently retired.
Giant's financial figures rounded out the uneventful meeting on a positive note, as the company posted an 8.5 percent increase in net income for the past fiscal year on a sales increase of 4.5 percent. Giant stock fell 25 cents a share yesterday, to $33.625.
Pub Date: 9/06/96