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Roark Buys Buffalo Wild Wings for $2.9 Billion

Inside a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant during March Madness basketball games
Inside a Buffalo Wild Wings during last year's March Madness (photo:sniegowski)

Atlanta-based private equity firm Roark Capital Group agreed to purchase publicly traded Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. [NASDAQ: BWLD] of Minneapolis for $157 per share, approximately $2.9 billion, which includes taking over Buffalo's net debt. The acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings, a restaurant and franchising company of more than 1,250 casual dining restaurants, has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both firms. The deal is expected to conclude during the first quarter of 2018.

Buffalo Wild Wings to be part of Arby's Group

After the transaction is finalized, Buffalo Wild Wings will be a privately held part of Arby's Restaurant Group Inc., one of a number of franchising firms held by parent company Roark Capital, which owns franchising companies Carvel, Moe's Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky's and Auntie Anne's, among others. Although Buffalo Wild Wings will be part of Arby's Restaurant Group, Arby's says Buffalo Wild Wings will operate as an independent brand. However, Arby’s CEO Paul Brown will serve as Buffalo Wild Wings’ chief executive officer.

“We are confident that the strength of our two industry-leading brands, under the sponsorship of Roark Capital – an experienced restaurant and food service investor – will enable us to capitalize on significant growth opportunities in the years ahead,” said Sally Smith, outgoing CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings.

Earlier this year activist shareholder Marcato Capital Management LP became involved in an activist war over the direction of Buffalo Wild Wings and the makeup of its officers and board of directors. In a vote by shareholders, Marcato won. As a result, CEO Sally Smith said she would resign by the end of the year.  Marcato, which owns approximately 6.4 percent of Buffalo Wild Wings’ stock, has voted in favor of this takeover by Roark and Arby’s.

Minneapolis or Atlanta? Franchisees should make their voices heard

In the aftermath of Marcato slicing up the old company's leadership, analyst John Gordon of Pacific Management Consulting Group thinks that the newly announced permanent CEO will be good for the franchising company.

“Arby’s looks to be swallowing Buffalo Wild Wings,” says Gordon. The restaurant unit economic analyst advises franchise owners that they need to make themselves heard. He thinks the incoming CEO Paul Brown would be open to hearing the opinions of franchisees. “Do Buffalo Wild Wings’ franchisees care about their franchisor’s product development, legal entity and franchise support services being in Minneapolis, or are they okay with it being in Atlanta, where Arby’s and Roark are?” asks Gordon. That is to say, which location is better for franchisees as their hub of support services? Gordon reminds franchisees that state legal protections for franchise owners are different in Minnesota and Georgia.

"Buffalo Wild Wings is one of the most distinctive and successful entertainment and casual dining restaurant companies in America,” said Paul Brown, CEO of Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc. and the next CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings. “We are excited to welcome a brand with such a rich heritage, led by an exceptionally talented team. We look forward to leveraging the combined strengths of both organizations into a truly differentiated and transformative multi-brand restaurant company.”

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About Don Sniegowski

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Don Sniegowski is editor of Blue MauMau, the daily news journal for franchise & small business owners. Call him at +1 (270) 321-1268, tweet @bluemaumau or email