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Marsh Ends Sponsorship at Indiana State Fair

Marsh Supermarkets is ending its longtime sponsorship of Indiana State Fair features to try to cut costs as it deals with financial losses and considers a possible sale.

The grocery chain last month exercised an option to end its six-year contract with the State Fair, fair spokesman Andy Klotz said. It was approaching the fifth fair in that contact.

Marsh's sponsorship had cost $175,000 for the naming rights for the fair's Grandstand, Blue Ribbon Pavilion and Agriculture-Horticulture Building, Klotz said.

"It means we have to find more sponsors and make up for the deficit it presents us with," Klotz said.

The Indianapolis-based company also sponsored the State Fair Gardens through a subsidiary, McNamara Florist, and the "Little Hands on the Farm" exhibit, which allows children to learn about farm chores and how food and clothing get from fields to stores.

The 2007 fair would have been the last to be covered in the contract.

Company spokeswoman Myra Borshoff Cook said Friday Marsh was not commenting on individual sponsorships but is reviewing all of them. Marsh has also cut donations to the Salvation Army and Lighthouse Mission.

Cook cited a statement by Bill Marsh, the company's interim president and chief operating officer: "Given the company's current situation, we find it necessary to make the tough decisions needed for the well-being of the corporation. We have been and will remain committed to the communities we serve."

The Indianapolis-based chain announced plans this week to close supermarkets in Fort Wayne and Muncie along with six of its Village Pantry convenience stores and a restaurant as part of an effort to save about $12 million. The company's board also voted to oust four Marsh family members from executive positions.

In November, the 75-year-old company announced it was trying to find a buyer.

The company's 10-member board of directors voted this week to remove Marsh's president, David Marsh, and replace him with his uncle, William Marsh, who has worked for the company since 1974. Three other Marsh family members _ Arthur Marsh, Don Marsh Jr. and Joseph Heerens _ were also laid off.

About 20 jobs at the company's corporate headquarters also will be cut.

Closing the Fort Wayne Marsh and the Savin$ store will affect about 115 employees, with most being reassigned, Cook said.