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Private-equity firm acquires big Burger King operator

Polar Star Capital Partners, a newly formed investment firm, has acquired 126-unit Meridian Restaurants Unlimited.
Jonathan Maze

Polar Star Capital Partners, a new private-equity firm out of Salt Lake City, on Wednesday said it has acquired a controlling stake in Meridian Restaurants Unlimited, operator of 114 Burger King units.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the total value was said to be more than $80 million.

Meridian, based in South Ogden, Utah, is one of Burger King's largest franchisees, and funding from the deal will enable the operator to buy an additional 25 Burger King units in Kansas and Nebraska from Horizon Food Service.

In addition, the operator has acquired the rights to add locations in eight Western states, giving the franchisee the ability to double its unit count in the coming years.

Meridian, which David Harper founded in 2002, also operates 10 Chili’s locations and two El Pollo Loco stores.

James Winder, founder of Polar Star, called Harper “one of the best operators in the industry.”

“David has a demonstrated track record of growing a successful franchisee and developing and managing profitable stores within multiple concepts,” Winder said in a statement. “He has created a culture of team members who operate at a very high level and focus on doing business the right way.”

Private-equity firms are frequent investors in franchises, especially large operators with growing store counts. Such franchisees can generate consistent cash flow for a long time.

Polar Star is a newly formed group. Winder had been with The Cynosure Group, a Salt Lake City-based investment firm, and before that was with the mergers and acquisitions group at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York City.

Harper said that Polar Star brings to his company “accelerated growth-level support and financial expertise.”

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