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Posts published in “Day: January 23, 2006”

Speeding ahead

You can understand the pressure. University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer, who is no one's idea of an off-the-deep-end kind of guy, says that action is needed, and needed soon:

The UO is growing substantially, and is going to need more space soon. It has limited options: It is surrounded, pretty much, by developed Eugene; it is a big institution with few available growth options. A few are available, notably a state office property and a former car sales lot. Of them, he says, "This is property that only comes on the market once in a generation, maybe once in a century. If it's gone, it's really gone."

How to raise the money to buy it? Well, there's a 400-unit student apartment building on campus which could be sold off.

The catch, of course: What about the residents, hundreds of students, who probably would have a hall of a time finding affordable housing somewhere else near campus?

Students and the university Senate are opposed to the selloff, at least until that question is resolved. That's the question too that have Eugene's legislators lining up against Frohnmayer, and asking: Do you really have to move so fast? And especially: Before you've figured out what to do with all those people whose housing has been taken away?

Frohnmayer's stance on this looks - looks - irreversible; he has indicated there is no choice but to go forward. But he's on a collision course, and this could rapidly be turning into the biggest trouble he's faced in his dozen or so years at the university.

In November 2004, Frohnmayer delivered an address in Portland on situational ethics. Toward the end of it, he had this to say:

A major component of ethical judgment is to recognize the flashing yellow lights that say “don’t enter the valley of the shadow.” The admonition to avoid the “occasions of sin” may be more important that we have realized. We can easily go too far – authority is seductive; we can reach a personal tipping point after which our hands are inescapably dirty. Some environments blind us to the human consequences of our actions– so we MUST be attuned to the consequences of our behavior and our own weaknesses, our own sins - whatever they may be. This ethical life is hard work – “knowing right from wrong” requires diligence, self-scrutiny and looking into a very well-lit and refractive mirror.

Wise words.

Goodbye to all (or some of) that

An so Albertson's is about to be no more, so we may conclude.

Albertsons has been sold (pending some final but expected approvals) to a group of business interests, and the second-largest grocery store chain in the country, one of the largest enterprises ever created in Idaho (and one of that state's bragging points), likely will be no more, and most of its currently large Boise presence, and the associated business activities, likely will move elsewhere.

Is that too firm a conclusion? Possibly; there's nothing in the massive buyout that explicitly keeps the Albertsons stores and operations from going on and doing business exactly as they have been doing. But if that's all that lies ahead, why go through the whole business of a sellout and buyout? Something different is in the wings.

There's no positive conclusion what that will be. But some careful thinking was underway in downtown Boise on Monday, and underlying it is the point that Albertsons is going not to a single operator, but to a consortium with different interests. Some are in retail. But others are in real estate, and still others have other interests.

Credible current speculation runs along these lines:

Supervalu, which apparently gets the Idaho and Northwest Albertsons stores among many other properties, would replace Albertsons as the second-largest grocery company nationally. But there are quirks: Will all those stores retain the Albertson's name? (Don't count on it.) How does that part of the deal mesh with the part relating to Cerebrus investments, which seems to be approached more from a real estate and property management perspective?

As for Boise headquarters, the immediate word was: no change. But then, that was the word out of Albertsons leadership three weeks ago. Current expectations: Most corporate and administrative offices will be stripped out of Boise, though probably one or two divisions will be left in place. (That appears to be a standard procedure with some of the purchasing companies.) Not everything will be moved out. Most of it will be.

The grocery world, and Boise's business world, has been upended.