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Supervalu Sues Exec Who Defected To Rival

Unified's Leon Bergmann

Supervalu is suing to keep a former executive from spilling secrets in his new job with a major competitor, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports.

For about 15 months, Leon Bergmann was president of independent business at Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Supervalu Inc., where he led the company’s food and service sales to about 2,200 independent grocers nationwide.

In October, Bergmann resigned, writing in his resignation letter to Supervalu CEO Wayne Sales that he had lost confidence in the company’s turnaround efforts. Supervalu is seeking to sell itself, or at least some of its many supermarket retail chains.

Bergmann resurfaced last week in a new position of SVP of sales at Unified Grocers Inc., Supervalu’s largest competitor in the western U.S.

Supervalu filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court after the announcement and sought an order barring Bergmann from working for his new employer or otherwise violating his confidentiality agreement and a 12-month non-compete. The breach-of-contract suit also accuses Unified Grocers of intentionally interfering with the agreements.

Unified Grocers, meanwhile, sued last month in California court to invalidate the non-compete agreement. In a statement, the Commerce, Calif.-based company said it “will respond to this new action at the appropriate time.”

In its suit, Supervalu said Bergmann’s new position will put him head-to-head with Supervalu in California and the Pacific Northwest, where Unified Grocers is one of Supervalu’s “fiercest competitors.” Supervalu’s lawsuit said Bergmann will inevitably “exploit his extensive knowledge” of Supervalu’s pricing, strategy and customer information to compete with Supervalu.



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