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Thai Union acquires Red Lobster Seafood. Golden Gate Capital has announced that it has agreed to sell its remaining equity stake in Red Lobster Seafood Co. (“Red Lobster”) to a consortium comprised of existing Red Lobster investor Thai Union Group PCL (BKK:TU) (“Thai Union”), an investor group consisting of highly experienced global restaurateurs and hospitality industry executives, and Red Lobster management.

With more than 40 years of industry experience, Thai Union is a leading, publicly-traded global seafood supplier with an enterprise value of approximately $4 billion. 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.

The new investor group, coming together under a new company named Seafood Alliance, is comprised of key shareholders Paul Kenny and Rit Thirakomen, who together bring over 75 years of experience in restaurant industry strategy, operations, and brand building. Mr. 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. Mr. Thirakomen is the Chairman, CEO, and controlling shareholder of MK Restaurant Group, a leading Thai restaurant chain.

Kim Lopdrup, CEO of Red Lobster, stated:

“We are thrilled to deepen our relationship with Thai Union, a long-term strategic supplier to Red Lobster and our investment partner for the last four years. Our organization will also benefit from the tremendous international restaurant and hospitality expertise brought by Seafood Alliance. I want to thank Golden Gate Capital for their unwavering support over the past six years and particularly over the past five months.”

Thiraphong Chansiri, President & 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. We look forward to capitalizing on that solid base, as well as leveraging Seafood Alliance’s restaurant expertise and international relationships, to continue to develop the brand domestically and internationally.”

Josh Olshansky, a Managing Director at Golden Gate Capital, said:

“We have enjoyed a highly successful partnership with Red Lobster and are proud to have worked collaboratively alongside Kim Lopdrup and the management team since 2014, achieving strong returns for our investors. With low leverage and a strong liquidity position, we know the business is in great hands and look forward to cheering the team on under new ownership.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Red Lobster has reinforced its robust quality assurance and safety standards and added new preventative steps in accordance with CDC guidelines and government mandates to maintain a safe, high-quality guest experience. Red Lobster has also introduced touchless delivery and touchless curbside pick-up for To Go orders as well as new menu innovations like its Family Feasts, which serve a family of four for as little as $7 per person. Today, 99% of company-operated Red Lobster locations are open for To Go and delivery, and 88% of dining rooms are open. For guests dining in, Red Lobster is offering both single-use paper menus and QR code-enabled menus that can be read on a mobile device. Guests can pay contact-free via Apple Pay or by credit card on Presto tablets at each table and sanitized for each party.

Mr. Lopdrup continued:

“I am proud of how our team has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, always putting the safety of our guests and employees first. The pandemic has pushed us to rethink the guest experience, and we successfully rolled out new initiatives that allowed us to quickly and safely grow our off-premise sales. We are pleased that we have maintained off-premise sales at triple our pre-crisis levels even after reopening the large majority of our dining rooms.”

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Guggenheim is serving as financial advisor and Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Nob Hill Law Group, P.C. are serving as legal advisors to Golden Gate Capital. PJ Solomon is serving as financial advisor, with Allen & Overy serving as legal advisor to Thai Union.