Private equity fund buying Cincinnati-based Frisch’s

Dan Sewell
Associated Press

Cincinnati — Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants are being sold to a private equity fund, the company announced Friday, ending family ownership of the Cincinnati-based chain that dates to a 1939 drive-thru.

Frisch’s Restaurants Inc. said NRD Partners I will buy all outstanding shares for $34 each, or some $175 million. Frisch’s shares closed Thursday at $28.12, and shot up nearly 19 percent to $33.50 in morning trading Friday.

The regional chain of the Big Boy mascot and namesake two-burger sandwich owns some 95 family restaurants in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Its website states it has an additional 26 operated in the region by licensees. Frisch’s says it owns the “Big Boy” trademark in Kentucky and Indiana, and in most of Ohio and Tennessee.

The franchises in Michigan are part of Big Boy Restaurants International, LLC. with its headquarters in Warren, not part of the Frisch’s restaurant chain.

CEO Craig Maier and marketing Vice President Karen Maier will retire, but the grandchildren of company founder David Frisch plan to continue as franchisees. With slow growth as its restaurants faced increased competition from other family dining options in recent years, Frisch’s availability for sale had been speculated about for months.

“This is the culmination of over two years of strategic planning, and this is the right transaction for the company,” Craig Maier said in a statement. He said the deal will maximize shareholder value and “ensures the iconic Frisch’s restaurants can continue to provide a full-service family dining experience.”

“Frisch’s restaurants are among the most classic and adored family restaurants in the country,” Aziz Hashim, NRD Partners I’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. ”We are excited to have an opportunity to acquire and implement our franchise growth strategy with this beloved brand.”

The deal is expected to close by the end of September, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

Frisch’s last month reported $47 million in revenue for its fiscal third quarter, up 4.2 percent over the prior year’s third quarter, with earnings per share up from 32 cents to 45 cents earnings per share over the previous year’s third quarter.

The company says it has reported a profit every year since going public in 1960.

The company earlier this year reported uncovering an alleged, multiyear embezzlement of nearly $4 million by a former employee.