'Hidden' grocery billionaire keeps a low profile

C&S Wholesale Grocers chairman Rick Cohen is worth $11.2 billion, making him the 95th-richest person in the world. But he's not bragging.

By Julie K Balise Aug 5, 2013 2:41PM

There's a billionaire doing business in Keene, N.H., but you've never heard of him.


Rick Cohen is the 95th-richest person in the world, Bloomberg's Matthew Miller reports. He's the chairman of C&S Wholesale Grocers, and his customers include big chains like Stop & Shop, Safeway (SWY), Target (TGT), and Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.


Those are the names that matter most to Cohen, who is worth $11.2 billion.

"He takes products, he moves them, he does it in unmarked trucks," Miller says. "Basically his thing is that he doesn't want the company's name out there.


"He wants to make sure that he delivers for his customers. He doesn't want to be a big showboat for his own company."


C&S Wholesale Grocers delivers to more than 3,900 independent, chain and grocery stores in 12 states, according to the company's website. It produced almost $22 billion in sales last year, with margins of about 2%.


Rick Cohen (Courtesy of MSN Money via Bloomberg.com)C&S was founded in 1918 in Worcester, Mass., by Israel Cohen and Abraham Siegel, according to the company's website. It worked with commissaries on military bases during World War II. Rick Cohen (pictured) joined the company in 1974.


Cohen's employees have an incentive to work better. Those who fill orders faster get paid more, while wages are reduced for workers who make mistakes.


"He pays his workers more for not making mistakes," Miller said in the report. "As a result, they're much more efficient and that brings the profitability just a little bit higher."


C&S delivers more than 95,000 different products, according to its website.


Miller said Cohen has donated to New Hampshire colleges for Holocaust studies. His wife is the head of a traveling musical that's based on the Holocaust, according to the report. One of their daughters works for the company, while the other teaches in Massachusetts.


Maintaining a low profile does not help Cohen grow his business, according to Miller, but it can help keep the focus on the company's customers and away from its billionaire chairman.


"It's just so rare to see somebody so wealthy," he said in the report. "We're talking about a guy who's worth more than $11 billion. To actually be hidden in New Hampshire is quite rare."


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Aug 5, 2013 3:37PM

Get paid more for doing a good or high perforance result. What a concept. I guess that would not apply to federal and state employees. Performance has nothing to do with raises in government jobs, it's how long you have survived and hidden from scrutiny and meeting goals and objectives.



Aug 5, 2013 3:03PM
"Those who fill orders faster get paid more, while wages are reduced for workers who make mistakes." .............  Someone's parents forgot to hand out blue ribbons for last place too. We just can't have this........ it is just too UN-LIBERAL.
Aug 5, 2013 3:46PM
Great concept, rewards based on performance.  It's too bad the government can't understand that.
Aug 5, 2013 3:36PM
he does not want to be bothered so you write a story about him? fail
Aug 5, 2013 3:40PM
Aug 5, 2013 3:43PM
i was a manager for 31 years in the grocery business although we were union ,it would have been nice to get shown more money for my efforts..i was stock crew manager working as good as 2 clerks did as far as productivity.and those who didn't were paid as much as me..i can see why this guy has the incentive program..
Aug 5, 2013 3:42PM
How dare they reward those who work hard and punish those who are slackers.  Has any one told Obummer about this, I am sure he and all of the libtards will be outraged and try to ruin him for being successful.  GO C&S, I wish more were like you.
Aug 5, 2013 3:42PM
A man who was able to make a success, without blaming Obama, and do it while not calling attention to himself? Must be another government plant conspiracy designed to make people think that they too can make it on their own without blaming people who really have nothing to do with their personal success or failures.
Aug 5, 2013 3:55PM
The concept of getting paid more for your efforts is what built America.. This is the type of company that hard working Americans love to work for. Instead of being promoted due to who your relatives are or the color of your skin. 
Our Presidential candidates should have the same work atmosphere. Weed out the weak the corrupt and get ride of the lobbyist.   
Aug 5, 2013 3:39PM
Seems like a humbled business man, wait can those two go together, not if your a liberal.  Finally something worth telling the story about.
Aug 5, 2013 3:43PM
"Those who fill orders faster get paid more, while wages are reduced for workers who make mistakes." ....this is a standard warehouse selector pay formula. Been around for years, will be around forever!!!
Aug 5, 2013 3:58PM
If he's running for president, he'll have my vote. What a leader.
Aug 5, 2013 3:43PM

Dear God!  He pays his workers!  Doesn't he know that payroll is the company's biggest expense?  That labor is a resource to be exploited?  And he pays them MORE not to make mistakes!  Doesn't he know you only pay more for neat ledger entries?


He's a traitor to capitalism!

Aug 5, 2013 3:38PM
Is he related to Harold Ramis of SCTV and Stripes fame?
Obama wouldn't like this man at all, he couldn't work for the Gov. or the Post Office.
Aug 5, 2013 3:41PM
Wasn't he in that movie?...You know.."Who you gonna call?...GHOSTBUSTERS !!!"???
Aug 5, 2013 3:57PM

Yeah and seems that his kids are quite well grounded also, for being possible Billionaires.

If you want to be or get better...You have to work and try harder...Or EARN it.

All or most, should be taught those values.


Sadly not the case in many situations anymore, therefore losers give up too quickly.

And hope to ride another's coattails...Someday that comes to a halt.

And then the blame is put on everyone else...

Except for expected situations, it's getting way too common for others.

Aug 5, 2013 3:42PM
The only thing I didn't hear about this was that minimum wage rises with cost of living and profit of the company and isn't at the rock bottom federal requirement like everywhere else. Otherwise, their business model is perfect, reward those that do well, penalize those that do poorly. Work to make the customers happy, not the public. Work to complete a good job, not doing the bare minimum, charging the least to bankrupt competition, and having your name everywhere so no one can give alternative businesses a try.

I agree the politicians will not let this business stand using this model that practices self responsibility without getting hooks in to make it as corrupt and worthless as the rest of the businesses, but it's probably not just Liberals wanting to do it.
Aug 5, 2013 3:49PM
Aug 5, 2013 4:32PM

Why does the "Legion of Losers" have to politicize this story? No mention of politics here, just a success story based on hard work, intelligent decisions and a fortunate family heritage.  

But, the anti-Obama zealots, Tea Party Idiots, anti-government, anti-liberal & conservative whiners try to twist a very good story into something that fits their political ideology and hatred. What a pack of pathetic comments!

Thanks for a positive success story about someone who knows what he is doing and how to do it.

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