(photo courtesy of Safeway)

Indianapolis-based venture firm SAW Capital, which operates Safeway Supermarkets and other businesses, is now an employee-owned company with a new name. The new Employee Stock Ownership Plan company, SAW Ventures Inc. and its divisions, will be led by President Leslie Exendine.

The company says the new venture will employ more than 150 people in the Indianapolis area. Safeway Supermarkets has five Indy locations, and Dugdale Foods, another SAW subsidiary, will continue to operate as a wholesaler to grocers, restaurants and institutions.

Scott Weaver will be chairman and CEO of SAW Ventures.

“As an entrepreneur, the ultimate measure of success is selling your company, but for me success was selling to my loyal and hardworking partner employees,” said Weaver.

The company says Joe Dugdale will be president of Dugdale LLC and Jeff Kirkham will be the president of Grace Foods LLC, which will operate the Safeway stores. The other businesses included in the new employee-owned company include GS Transportation LLC, texting service firm Casper LLC, and software provider P2P Solutions LLC.

“Employee retention and motivation are challenges that are not going away for any business,” said Exendine. “Providing ownership opportunities across a group of people is the best way to keep our team focused and engaged for the long term.”

The company says Muncie-based First Merchants Bancorp (Nasdaq: FRME) provided financing to support the transition.