Kroger Right of Refusal Language: A Brief History

Eastbridge residents have been frustrated for almost a decade, wondering when and if they will have a town center in the Eastbridge neighborhood. To many Eastbridge residents, the town center played at least a small part in why they purchased their home in Eastbridge. “Obviously, the school that was originally promised was the biggest thing,” said resident Julia Hansen. “And having the park and pool so close is great, and we are thrilled that happened. In hindsight, since we didn’t get the school, the town center, or the 26th Ave. Park, it is certainly possible we may not have had the F-15 park either. So, I guess that is nice.”

For most Eastbrdge residents, one of four is not good enough, however. “It is ridiculous it has taken this long and still nothing,” said resident Aaron Collazo. “We absolutely were told by a builder that it would be in in three years—-seven years ago. We had visions of walking with the kids to get coffee, groceries, and breakfast. But nothing. Not even a good progress report.”

It is no secret as to why Forest City says this has been held up. “We need a grocer to anchor the town center,” said Forest City President Phil Dargossi. “And, we just have not been able to get one in there.” The other challenge for residents is the contractual language between Forest City and Kroger, owner of King Soopers. “Most residents apparently want an alternative grocer, and we have a contract with King Soopers that will give them the first right of refusal if we ever have an alternative grocer in place,” said Dargossi. These types of agreements are pretty standard, but what makes this contract egregious is the length of the term of the right of refusal.

“Kroger will retain the first right of refusal for 20 years according to Forest City,” said local lawyer Bradley Christensen. “I have been working in business and corporate law for about 25 years, and I have never seen anything so ridiculous. Five to ten years is typically standard for this type of an arrangement.”

The Stapletonion looked into how a major corporation that often deals with legal issues could ever make such a big error. The key player in all of this is someone who never officially worked for Forest City and was just an intern at the time. “I was working on finishing my online law degree from Concord Law School,” said Jamey Earnest. “Forest City Stapleton was allowing me to be an intern in the legal department, which pretty much meant getting everyone’s coffee and doing brainless admin tasks.”

Forest City came to trust Earnest, and they continued to trust him with more and more important tasks, albeit, none needing a degree of any sort. “He was a good kid,” said lead counsel for Forest City, Steve Hubka. “He was never going to work for us full time, but we wanted him to get a valuable experience. I guess I just trusted him too much.”

On September 19th, 2003, Hubka was heading out to golf on a Friday afternoon, and asked Earnest to bring the signed papers over to Kroger for them to sign and return. “He literally was supposed to drop off the documents, have them sign them, and bring them back. Obviously, he made an error that could not be undone, and we certainly did not authorize him to do so. He was considered an agent of Forest City, however, so the changes he made were legally binding.”

What Earnest did was unwittingly forever change the course of the Eastbridge community. “I brought the documents over, as I was requested,” said Earnest. There were about five Kroger lawyers reading the documents. It was kind of intimidating. Then, they asked very casually if we could just change the right of refusal language from 10 years to 20 years. I said ‘sure’, assuming it wasn’t a big deal. Just one of those mistakes you make and learn from.”

Earnest, 35, is currently living with his folks in Thornton, Colorado, and working on another online degree. “I’m currently completing my healthcare administration degree online,” said Earnest. “Law really wasn’t for me, after all, so I am trying some other things.” Forest City also has learned a few things. “Sometimes, you need to just do things yourself,” said Hubka. “I certainly accept some of the responsibility for what happened, but I don’t regret it. Mostly because I broke 80 for the first time of my life, so that was a really great day for me.” For Stapleton residents hoping for a great day of walking to an Eastbridge town center, well, they may have to wait until about 2025.

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One response to “Kroger Right of Refusal Language: A Brief History”

  1. Gregg Looker

    I never know what is real and that is parody with your newspaper. Is the above story true?

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