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It was a roller coaster of a 24-hour period for Superquinn, the iconic Irish food retailer, as the company was placed in receivership by a syndicate of banks concerned that its more than $500 million (US) in debt was unsustainable, and then was sold by the banks to Musgrave Co., which operates under the SuperValue, Centra and Londis banners.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Local news reports say that Musgrave’s fast action should preserve, at least for the time being, the 2,800 jobs at Superquinn’s 23 stores.

Musgrave reportedly plans to continue operating Superquinn as a separate banner.

Superquinn was founded by Feargal Quinn in 1960, and became a legendary retail entity because of its attention to customer service and Quinn’s personal charisma. The Quinn family sold the company to the Select Retail Holdings consortium in 2005, saying that it hoped that the move would give the chain greater access to capital and an ability to get better sites. However, two years later the recession hit Ireland and Superquinn hard, and it has been difficult for the company’s new ownership to recapture the Quinn magic; there have been rumors for some time that the company would be sold.
KC's View:
Sad story, and not just because I’ve known Feargal Quinn for something like 20 years, and have done numerous stories about him and his legendary approach to retailing. There is no nicer, more cheerful person in retailing...or anywhere else, for that matter.

It is yet another chapter in a story that, unfortunately, has many of them, about how a small family company finds it increasingly difficult to survive in an environment that seems to prize bigness, and in a process that seems accelerated by a tough economy. The Musgrave Group is controlled by another Irish family, which is a good thing, and I’m glad to see that it wants to keep Superquinn intact, at least for the moment. But it won’t be the same.