Avram Goldberg, who alongside his wife led the regional supermarket chain Stop & Shop for years before being forced out during a hostile takeover in 1989, died Sunday at 92.
Goldberg married into the Rabb family that had founded the chain, but his start there was unglamorous: He was a part-time worker while studying at Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He rose through the ranks, eventually becoming president and later chairman.
Goldberg was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1930. He began working at Stop & Shop while a student at the age of 18 and, two years later in 1950, marred Carol Rabb. Her father, Sidney Rabb, ran the company from the 1930s until his death in 1985. The Rabb family had started the chain, then called Economy Grocery Stores Company, in 1914; today the company operates stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Goldberg practiced law for several years before returning to work at the company full-time in 1958. Carol Goldberg, who studied at Tufts University and Harvard Business School, also came to work at the company in the same year.
The couple proceeded to move up the ranks of the company, aided by family connections. But they were also considered to be good at their jobs and to work well together. When Avram Goldberg became president of the company in 1971, his father-in-law Sidney Rabb told The New York Times, “If I had a son, Av’s what I would like to have.”
However, in that same New York Times interview in 1971, Rabb forcefully denied rumors that the couple would end up running the company together.
“Never!” her father declared. “Avram won’t wind up as chairman with Carol as president. The pros have got to have a chance in this company. We have 20,000 employees.”
Yet that was exactly what would happen. After Rabb died in 1985, Goldberg became chairman and Carol president.
Goldberg seemed to revel in his wife’s achievements and professional success, which was unusual for women at the time.
“It has been exciting to be married to someone who is way ahead of her time in the emergence of women as equal partners in our society, and to be part of the process,” he wrote in 1986 for the 35th-anniversary report of his Harvard College class, according to The Boston Globe.
Family control of the company after Rabb’s passing would be short-lived, however. In 1989, the Goldbergs were forced out of the company in the midst of a hostile takeover by outside investors. After resigning from Stop & Shop, the Goldbergs founded an investment and consulting firm called the AVCAR group.
Goldberg was involved in a number of Jewish organizations in Boston, including the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, which awarded him its Young Leadership Award in 1965. Despite losing money invested with Bernie Madoff in 2008, the Goldbergs continued to be major donors to various charities in the Boston area. In 2020, a family foundation set up by the Goldbergs donated $685,000 to CJP. Goldberg was also a support of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Goldberg is survived by his wife as well as two children. One daughter, Deborah Goldberg, is the state treasurer of Massachusetts.