January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Peapod Sued By Shareholders

At least six shareholders of Internet grocer Peapod reportedly have filed lawsuits against the company, claiming executives hid recent financial problems. A white knight, Netherlands-base Royal Ahold, purchased a 51% stake in Peapod, totaling $73 million, in mid-April, ending weeks of speculation about the company's future.

Peapod's trouble began in March when investors withdrew an anticipated $120 million in funding after CEO William Mallory resigned suddenly for undisclosed health reasons. Peapod, which has steadily lost money since its 1989 startup despite building a customer base of 100,000 in eight metropolitan markets, had counted on the financing for ambitious expansion plans. Last year, Peapod lost $28.5 million on revenue of $73.1 million.

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