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UGI's Michael Marinangeli retires in style


A who's who of the industry gathered Thursday night at Toronto's Airport Marriott to celebrate the career of retiring United Grocers Inc. president, Michael Marinangeli.

What is usually an appreciation dinner for suppliers, this year's annual UGI dinner was a "farewell for Michael" who, after 14 years with UGI, and a career in grocery that spans over nearly five decades, hands over the reigns to Denis Gendron.

Steve van der Leest of Overwaitea Foods and current UGI chairman, acted as master of ceremonies and called Marinangeli the "heart and brains of UGI."

Marinangeli, a third generation grocer, has worked in various positions with Miracle Food Mart, Oshawa Foods, and ACT Media. In 2004, he was honoured with the industry's highest recognition, the Golden Pencil Award.

Under his guidance, UGI managed several firsts, among them a lump sum for in-ad coupons, helping to turn UGI into one of the country's largest buying groups through partnerships with supplier organizations to grow the business.

Among those who spoke at the event were a collection of industry leaders: Marinangeli's first boss, Al Mattison; his mentor, Earl Near; Mike Adcock of Ault Foods; Jim Slomka of Clorox and Anthony Longo, of Longo's.

Longo said that grocery was in Marinangeli's blood having grown up in the industry when his grandfather first opened a grocery store in 1918.

A clearly emotional Marinangeli said his 48 years in the food industry he's seen a lot of ups and downs; most notably when UGi lost 40 per cent of its business when Sobeys and A&P left in the late '90s, only to see that by 2005 the organization recovered stronger with the addition of companies like H.Y. Louie, and the North West Company.

But the ever modest Marinangeli said that his greatest accomplishment in life was his 35 year marriage to his wife, Debbie, whom he met when she was a cashier and he was working in produce at Miracle Food Mart, and their four boys.

UGI's new president, Denis Gendron, said that he'll never be able to replace Mike, but instead he'll follow him. "He's put together a lot of good processes to make things work efficiently. I hope I'll be able to go further with what he's put in place."

Marinangeli told Gendron, "Be yourself; UGI is in good hands."

UGI currently represents 34 per cent of the food industry sales in Canada.

Next year UGI will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

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