In a dramatic speech at the Costcutter conference in Barcelona, Graves announced his resignation and accused Nisa-Today's executives of "arrogance" for excluding him from board meetings and spreading misinformation in order to poach retail members.
He said Nisa had approached every Costcutter retailer in the membership, and while only "minimal" numbers had made the switch, it was "absolutely deplorable that a partner we have worked with for so long should try to undermine our volumes and our credibility." Rumours that he was about to retire were also untrue, he added.
Graves maintained that no decision had been made as to whether the group would extend its distribution contract with Nisa-Today's beyond its expiry in 2014, or seek alternative arrangements, but made a personal commitment that Costcutter members would be on improved terms whatever the outcome. Many retailers stood and applauded at the close of the speech.
Graves told C-Store that he had been excluded from the last nine Nisa-Today's board meetings on the grounds of "conflict of interest", despite the fact that Costcutter accounts for 36% of the group's ambient volumes.
"It seems to me that they have already decided that we won't be extending the contract and are pursuing a course of developing the Nisa symbol group at the expense of other symbol members," he said.
A new contract with Nisa was still an option, he insisted, but added "at the moment, they are making it very difficult for us to work with them".
According to Graves, an alternative source of supply, such as an acquisition or strategic alliance with another distributor, or devising their own solution using parent company Bibby's vehicles, would take no more than 18 months to put in place, giving the group plenty of time to explore all the options available to them.
A National Retailer Forum structure would be set up to help the group keep its members updated during this process, Graves added.