Red Lobster restaurants come under more Asian control led by Thai Union

02, Sep. 2020

(Photo courtesy of Red Lobster Seafood)
(Photo courtesy of Red Lobster Seafood)

BANGKOK, NNA— A leading seafood company in Thailand is set to have a major influence over American seafood restaurant chain Red Lobster after signing a deal to acquire an additional stake to become its biggest owner.

San Francisco’s private equity firm Golden Gate Capital has agreed to sell its remaining 51 percent stake in Red Lobster Seafood Co. to a consortium comprising the Thai Union Group PCL (Thai Union), Seafood Alliance, which is a new investor group of global restaurateurs and hospitality industry executives, and Red Lobster management.

Golden Gate Capital invested heavily in Red Lobster in 2014, resulting in the company holding the majority stake.

Under the latest deal with Thai Union subsidiary, Thai Union Investments North America LLC, the group will hold an additional 13.68 percent, pushing its total share in Red Lobster to 49 percent.

Seafood Alliance will have a 36 percent stake while the remaining 15 percent will be controlled by Red Lobster management.

In announcing the sale in a statement on August 31, Golden Gate Capital did not disclose deal details such as the amount and the identities of Red Lobster executives who are investing in the casual dining group.

"This transaction represents a deepening of Thai Union's commitment to Red Lobster. Thai Union's involvement in Red Lobster began with a $575 million strategic investment in 2016, when it also added two representatives to the Red Lobster board of directors," said Golden Gate Capital, adding that Thai Union is a publicly traded global seafood supplier with an enterprise value of approximately $4 billion.

Thiraphong Chansiri, president and CEO of Thai Union, said, "As an anchor investor in Red Lobster since 2016, we are excited to confirm our commitment to the business, which reflects our utmost confidence in management and the company's strategy of serving top quality seafood for a great value. The Red Lobster brand is strong, with unmatched awareness and millions of loyal guests, and we believe it has tremendous long-term potential."

Chansiri said Thai Union will leverage on the restaurant expertise of its partner, a new investor group called Seafood Alliance to grow the business in America and abroad.

Seafood Alliance is an independent group with no relations to Thai Union, the company’s spokesman told NNA.

Seafood Alliance is led by key shareholders Paul Kenny and Rit Thirakomen, who have vast experiences in the restaurant industry.

Kenny is the former CEO of Minor Food, one of Asia's largest casual dining and quick-service restaurant companies that operates 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.

Kim Lopdrup, CEO of Red Lobster, said the chain is thrilled to deepen its relationship with Thai Union, a long-term strategic supplier to Red Lobster.

"Our organization will also benefit from the tremendous international restaurant and hospitality expertise brought by Seafood Alliance," added Lopdrup.

Josh Olshansky, a managing director at Golden Gate Capital, said the company has worked alongside Lopdrup and the management team since 2014 to achieve strong returns for investors.

"With a strong liquidity position, we know the business is in great hands and look forward to cheering the team on under new ownership," he said.

Red Lobster will remain headquartered in Orlando led by Lopdrup and its current management team.