TGI Fridays Chain Put Up for Sale; There are more than 900 owned and franchised TGI Fridays restaurants in nearly 60 countries world-wide and the chain has annual sales exceeding $2.5 billion

TGI Fridays Chain Put Up for Sale

DANA MATTIOLI

Updated Nov. 22, 2013 6:13 p.m. ET

TGI Fridays, the restaurant chain famous for its chicken wings, potato skins and burgers, is on the auction block. Hospitality firm Carlson, the chain’s owner, has hired investment bank Piper Jaffray to help conduct a strategic review of TGI Fridays, people familiar with the matter said. Carlson, which owns Radisson hotels and other hospitality and travel brands, began informing employees about the move Friday, one of them added.Fridays has grown into a major player in casual dining since it was founded more than 45 years ago. Between its owned and franchised restaurants that are often found in malls and other commercial hubs, TGI Fridays employs around 80,000 people, Carlson Restaurants Chief Executive Nick Shepherd, said in an interview Friday. There are more than 900 owned and franchised TGI Fridays restaurants in nearly 60 countries world-wide and the chain has annual sales exceeding $2.5 billion.

It’s unclear who might be interested in buying TGI Fridays or how much the chain might fetch. Over the years, Carlson has fielded takeover offers for TGI Fridays, mostly from private-equity firms, according to a person familiar with the matter. TGI Fridays has earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of around $115 million a year, the person said. Based on where similar companies that are public trade, the chain could be valued at more than $1 billion including any debt in a sale.

The decision to consider a sale of TGI Fridays came after Carlson’s annual strategic review, Mr. Shepherd said. The decision comes after the business made progress winning market share from its rivals, he added.

Still, the possible sale comes as players in the casual dining industry face headwinds including from a persistently soft economy.

“I’m not terribly troubled by the state of the casual dining market,” Mr. Shepherd said. “I’m more interested in the success we’re having now.”

A sale of TGI Fridays would be the latest in a string of deal activity in the restaurant industry. Earlier this month, private-equity firm Roark Capital Group agreed to acquire a majority stake in Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s parent company CKE Inc. Last month, activist hedge fund Barington Capital Group LP, along with other investors, took a stake in Darden Restaurants Inc., owner of Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other restaurant chains.

Carlson, which describes itself on its website as “one of the largest private companies in the world,” has over 1,300 hotels world-wide under brands including Radisson, Park Plaza and Country Inns & Suites. It also owns the Carlson Wagonlit Travel agency and employs more than 175,000 people.

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