Private equity firm sells equity stake in Red Lobster Seafood to newly formed Thai Union investor group

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Stake sold in world’s largest seafood restaurant chain. 

San Francisco-based private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, which has owned Red Lobster since 2014, has sold its remaining stake in the seafood restaurant to existing investor Thai Union Group called Seafood Alliance, Red Lobster announced in a press release.

Golden Gate Capital, which has USD 17 billion in committed capital under management, sold it to a consortium comprised of existing Red Lobster investors from Thai Union Group.

The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Thai Union’s involvement in Red Lobster began with a USD 575 million strategic investment in 2016. Golden Gate Capital took Red Lobster private in 2014 from fellow Orlando-headquartered restaurant operator Darden via a USD 2.1 billion deal, reported FSR.

The new investor group, coming together under a new company named Seafood Alliance, is comprised of key shareholders Paul Kenny and Rit Thirakomen.

Kenny is the former CEO of Minor Food, one of Asia’s largest casual dining and quick-service restaurant companies that operate more than 2,000 outlets in 27 countries under The Pizza Company, The Coffee Club, Riverside, Thai Express, Benihana, Bonchon, Swensen’s, Sizzler, Dairy Queen and Burger King brands. Thirakomen is the Chairman, CEO, and controlling shareholder of MK Restaurant Group, a leading Thai restaurant chain.

The news that Golden Gate Capital has ditched Red Lobster comes not long after a new report from Debtwire (quoted in FSR) claimed that the seafood chain was exploring strategic options after facing “unprecedented challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In May, SalmonBusiness reported that Thai Union said that that shutdown of Red Lobster chain contributed to a 9.9 million EBITDA decline. Though the tuna giant said that Red Lobster still had USD 200 million in the bank.

The seafood chain said that to deal with COVID-19, 99 per-cent of company-operated Red Lobster locations are open for To Go and delivery, and 88 per-cent of its dining rooms are now open.