AKA Alexander Grass
Birthplace: Scranton, PA
Location of death: Harrisburg, PA
Cause of death: Cancer - Lung
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Party Affiliation: Republican
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Founder of Rite Aid
Alex Grass joined Lehrman & Sons, a regional grocery distributor in Pennsylvania, after marrying Lois Lehrman, the daughter of founder's son, Benjamin Sachs Lehrman. Grass launched Rack Rite Distributors in 1958, renting and stocking racks of non-grocery items for grocery stores, as a subsidiary of Lehrman & Sons. In 1962 Rack Rite opened its first retail operation, the Thrif D Discount Center in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a 1,700 square foot shop selling health and beauty aids, cheap housewares, and stationery. The store had sales of more than a quarter-million dollars in its first year, far exceeding expectations and dwarfing the income from rental racks in other stores. By 1965 the Thrif D chain had 21 outlets, and added a pharmacy in their 22nd store, which was renamed Rite Aid. With increased profits from prescription sales, the chain was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1970. Rite Aid's revenues exceeded $1B annually in 1983.
Grass was often portrayed as Rite Aid's sole founder, but Lehrman & Sons was Rite Aid's parent company in its early years, and Lehrman's CEO (and Grass's father-in-law) was Chairman of Rite Aid until 1968. After Lehrman & Sons was reorganized as Super Rite Foods and became a subsidiary of Rite Aid, Grass's brother-in-law Lew Lehrman (who ran for Governor of New York against Mario Cuomo in 1982) was installed as President of Rite Aid. In retirement, the elder Grass and his son, Roger Grass, bought majority control of Marvel's subsidiary Fleer/Skybox, the venerable bubble gum card maker, for $26M in 1999, and took the company to bankruptcy and liquidation in 2005.
In a boardroom coup Martin Grass, another son of of Alex Grass, became CEO and Chairman in 1995, leaving the elder Grass on the Board of Directors but with little involvement in the company's day-to-day operations. Martin Grass pursued a strategy of rapid expansion and acquisition, and was convicted of two counts of conspiracy in 2004, for a complex accounting, real estate, and backdated documents scheme that led Rite Aid to erase $1.6B in earnings from its financial statements.
Father: Louis Grass (d. 1936)
Brother: S. Robert Grass
Wife: Lois Lehrman Grass (m. 1950, div. 1973, two sons, two daughters)
Son: Martin Lehrman Grass (Rite-Aid executive, b. 1954)
Daughter: Elizabeth Grass Weese
Daughter: Linda Grass Shapiro Chemtob
Son: Roger Louis Grass
Wife: Louise Buch Gurkoff (m. 1974, d. 2007)
Law School: University of Florida (1949)
Administrator: Chairman, Board of Governors, Hebrew University (1996-)
Rite Aid Founder and President (1962-68)
Member of the Board of Rite Aid (as Chairman, 1968-95)
Rack Rite Distributors Founder (1958)
Member of the Board of Sera-Tec Biologicals (as Chairman)
Pennsylvania Right to Work Foundation
Pennsylvania Bar Association
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