J. Alexander’s buys Ninety Nine chain
The J. Alexander’s polished-casual chain has teamed up with Bill Foley’s Fidelity National Financial to acquire the Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub regional chain from American Blue Ribbon Holdings in a deal valued at $199 million.
The buyers are swapping roughly $179 million in stock for the 106-unit chain, whose units are concentrated in New England. The deal also calls for J. Alexander’s and its partners to assume $20 million in debt.
The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
J. Alexander’s CEO Lonnie Stout II described the chains as natural complements. “They have a culture very similar to ours,” he said in a statement.
J. Alexander's is smaller than Ninety Nine, with about three dozen units. Also part of the J. Alexander's group is an upscale steak concept, Stoney River Legendary Steaks.
Stout noted that many of Ninety Nine’s stores are in Massachusetts, a notoriously hard market for casual chains to crack. The chain has operated there since its founding 65 years ago.
“This creates somewhat of a moat around the business,” he said.
The concepts have strong family ties. J. Alexander’s, now publicly owned, had been a part of Foley’s Fidelity National Financial holding company until 2015.
American Blue Ribbon is also affiliated by Foley, an insurance mogul who entered the restaurant business by becoming the owner of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains. He ultimately sold those brands and moved to Montana, where he started a vineyard and became involved with several small chains, such as MacKenzie River Pizza.
American Blue Ribbon’s other concepts include O’Charley’s, Village Inn and Bakers Square.