Robert M. “Bob” Piccinini, the sympathetic and astute chairman of the board of directors and majority shareholder of the Modesto-based Save Mart Supermarkets empire, died Tuesday morning at his home in Modesto. He was 73 years old.
News of his death slowly circulated on Tuesday. Later that afternoon, Save Mart issued an official statement: “The Piccinini family today sadly announced the passing of Robert ‘Bob’ Piccinini, President of Save Mart Supermarkets. In life, Bob was most passionate about two things: his family and his business. He bought Save Mart from the Piccinini and Tocco families in 1985 after rising through the ranks – cashier, truck driver, store manager, vice president of real estate, and president and CEO. He is credited with taking Save Mart from a local Central Valley chain to the regional competitor it is today.
Piccinini’s health has deteriorated over the past two years, people close to him have said, and he is believed to have died of congestive heart failure. He retired as CEO of Save Mart in September and left day-to-day operations to Steve Junqueiro, Greg Hill and his daughter Nicole Piccinini Pesco.
Born January 21, 1942 in Modesto and raised in Manteca, Piccinini broke into the grocery store at the age of 12 at his father’s store, Mike’s Market. He put labels on packaged meats and earned 50 cents an hour.
Sixty years later, Piccinini is leaving a major footprint as the owner and operator of more than 240 stores in northern and central California under the Save Mart, S-Mart, Lucky, FoodMaxx and Maxx Value banners. Under his leadership, Save Mart grew into California’s largest family-owned grocery chain. Piccinini was ranked 243rd in the 2013 Forbes list of Richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $ 2.3 billion.
Piccinini’s passion for the sport lasted his entire life, although he did not excel in athletics. He was a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors and owned several minor league baseball teams over the years, including the Modesto A’s. He ran an investment group that nearly bought Oakland A’s in 1999.
Piccinini was seen at his seat at Oracle Arena in Golden State’s Monday night win over Washington. In fact, he’s attended five games in the Warriors’ recent six-game homestand.
“In my mind his life was cut short, but it was a great life,” said Dan Kiser, general manager of Modesto A from 1971-89.
Piccinini, who met Kiser while they were students at the University of San Francisco, hired Kiser as the general manager.
“His dad, Mike, was in business for himself and was a good instructor,” Kiser said. “Bob has held all positions at Save Mart. He had a good foundation and carried it throughout his career. He just knew what was needed to make it work.
In 1998, Piccinini engineered a revival of the then-declining Modesto relays through sponsorship and kept the world-class track and field competition alive and in Modesto for another decade. His company name has been on Sonoma’s NASCAR stop – the Toyota / Save Mart 350 – since 1992. The Save Mart Center at California State University, Fresno, was also built with a major contribution from Piccinini.
He attended Modesto Junior College, USF, and the University of the Pacific, and became vice president of Save Mart in 1971 (aged 29) after his father’s death. The twice-divorced father of five eventually became president of the company a decade later.
Piccinini has always had a knack for locating his stores and securing the money needed for expansion. An expert negotiator, he was very proud of the growth and prosperity of his business. Last summer he celebrated his 50th birthday with Save Mart.
“Either you have it or you don’t,” he once said. “It’s more about knowing how to make more good decisions than bad ones. You could go to school for 12 years and never get it.
He is survived by the children Nicole Pesco, Joseph Piccinini, Alexandria Piccinini and Dominic Piccinini; he was predeceased by his son Michael Piccinini.
The Piccinini family today sadly announced the passing of Robert “Bob” Piccinini, President of Save Mart Supermarkets.
In life, Bob was most passionate about two things: his family and his business. He bought Save Mart from the Piccinini and Tocco families in 1985 after rising through the ranks – cashier, truck driver, store manager, vice president of real estate, and president and CEO. He is credited with taking Save Mart from a local Central Valley chain to the regional competitor it is today.
Bob celebrated his 50th birthday with the company last summer. In September, he resigned from his role as CEO, placing his trust in the management of the company and creating a common partnership to run the company:
▪ Greg Hill, Co-President and Chief Financial Officer
▪ Steve Junqueiro, Co-President and Chief Operating Officer
▪ Nicole Pesco, Co-President and Head of Strategy and Brand
Over the years, Bob has been a strong supporter of many community organizations in Central Valley. Often shunning the spotlight, the impact of his contributions has not gone unnoticed.
Bob has received several industry accolades throughout his career. He had partnerships, business interests, and interests in several real estate and entertainment companies, including the Golden State Warriors.
Bob died Tuesday morning at his home in Modesto. He is survived by the children Nicole Pesco, Joseph Piccinini, Alexandria Piccinini and Dominic Piccinini; and was predeceased by his son Michael Piccinini. Bob was 73 years old.