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Six firms interested in buying Bob Evans' real estate

At least six rival state investment firms have expressed interest in buying the property holdings of restaurant and packaged-food giant Bob Evans Farms Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

The potential bidders include Spirit Realty Capital Inc., American Realty Capital Properties Inc., Store Capital and National Retail Properties Inc., these people said.

The overtures come as Bob Evans faces pressure from activist investor Thomas Sandell to sell the buildings that house its restaurants, lease them back and use the proceeds to buy back what Mr. Sandell argues are undervalued shares.

Mr. Sandell, a Swedish-born billionaire who founded Sandell Asset Management Corp. in 1998, last year began accumulating what has grown into a 9.2% stake in the company. In August, Bob Evans announced that four nominees put forth by Sandell Asset Management will join its 12-member board.

On Wednesday, Sandell Asset Management said in a securities filing that it had been contacted by several investment firms interested in buying Bob Evans' real estate should the firm's activist strategy prevail.

A Bob Evans spokesman said that the company is "focused on shareholder value."

Mr. Sandell believes Bob Evans' real estate holdings, including roughly 480 restaurant locations across the country, a 40-acre headquarters property and a 937-acre farm, both located in Ohio, are worth more than $900 million, or 80% of the company's market value.

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