Wednesday, May 25, 2011

California Pizza Kitchen to be sold to private equity firm

In taking the publicly traded restaurant chain private, Golden Gate Capital would pay shareholders $18.50 a share. CPK's founders and co-CEOs, Larry Flax and Richard Rosenfeld, haven't said whether they plan to stay on.

After more than a year of searching for a buyer, California Pizza Kitchen said Wednesday that it would be acquired by the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital for $470 million.

If the deal is approved by CPK's shareholders, San Francisco-based Golden Gate will begin to buy out the restaurant chain's shares next month. Golden Gate has also purchased stakes in On the Border Mexican Grill and Romano's Macaroni Grill. It owns a number of retail chains, including Eddie Bauer, Express and J.Jill.
Under the proposed deal, CPK shareholders would be paid $18.50 a share.

CPK was founded in Los Angeles in 1985. It became famous for developing gourmet pizzas that were unusual for chain restaurants, including a barbecued chicken pizza.

Positioned as a mid-priced option, the company thrived. Flax and Rosenfeld sold the company to PepsiCo Inc. in 1992, and for a time gave up control. But after a series of private equity owners and a public offering, they were back at the helm, reversing such decisions as a move to replace fresh vegetables in some recipes with frozen ones.

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