SHARECOMMENTMORE

BUFFALO, NY-Buffalo-based Tops Friendly Markets, in the midst of a major expansion in the Rochester area, has shed its private-equity owner in favor of buyers comprised of the existing management team.

Six of the company's top managers, including CEO Frank Curci, are buying out Morgan Stanley Capital Partners' stake in the business. Morgan Sanley has owned the company since 2007. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Tops wants to close the deal by the end of 2013. Besides Curci, the new owners, if the deal is done, will be chief operating officer Kevin Darrington; chief financial officer Richard Mills; senior vice president for operations John Persons; senior vice president for human resources Jack Barrett; and senior vice president and general counsel Lynne Burgess.

Tops spokesperson Katie McKenna said the ownership change will not affect the way the supermarkets are run. "Management is buying the stock of the company and will own all assets and liability," McKenna said in a statement Thursday morning. "Morgan Stanley Private Equity has been a very supportive partner to Tops Management for five-plus years. This time period has been one of strong growth for Tops: we've doubled our number of stores, increased our geographic footprint and added new jobs in the markets we serve."

Overall, Tops has 159 stores and more than 15,000 employees. Over the past six years, following the purchase of the former Penn Traffic groceries, the number of Tops locations has more than doubled. Stores are now located in northern Pennsylvania, northeastern New York and western Vermont as well as western New York.