Reuters is reporting that private-equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC is nearing a deal to buy Qdoba from Jack in the Box for more than $300 million.
The notion that Jack in the Box would deal Qdoba is not a new one. At the company’s investor meeting last year, CEO and chairman Lenny Comma said Jack in the Box was reconsidering its Qdoba strategy. The company has owned Qdoba for 14 years, and has grown the brand by more than 600 units to the 47-state, $800 million system it is today.
Jack in the Box acquired Qdoba for $45 million in 2003. The company operates 2,200 restaurants in 21 states and Guam, with Qdoba being its only subsidiary.
Apollo’s deal for Qdoba could come as early as this week, a source told Reuters. They also said negotiations could end without a deal.
“It has become more apparent since then that the overall valuation of the company is being impacted by having two different business models,” Comma said following Jack in the Box’s second-quarter earnings in May.
Then in June, Qdoba franchisees formed the Qdoba Franchisee Association to represent and guard the interests of the operators who run 340 of the system’s 717 total restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.
“With the uncertainty surrounding the future ownership of the Qdoba brand, we felt this was the appropriate time to unite the franchisee community with an independent voice,” QFA chairman Ron Stokes says in a statement at the time.
In August, after the company’s third-quarter earnings, where Qdoba’s same-store sales dropped 1.1 percent and transactions fell 2.8 percent, Jack in the Box said its evaluation of potential alternatives for Qdoba was forging ahead. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC was assisting the company’s board of directors.
News that Apollo could scoop up Qdoba began to surface in early November. The New York Post reported that the parent company of Chuck E. Cheese was the top contender to buy the brand.
Apollo made billions off of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, before selling it to Roark Capital in 2013. It took Chuck E. Cheese private for $1.3 billion in 2014. Sources told Reuters that Apollo does not plan to merge Chuck E. Cheese and Qdoba, as The New York Post initially reported it might.
Activist hedge fund Jana Partners recently took a $1.3 million share stake in Jack in the Box. The same company was involved in Whole Foods, and helped push the sale to Amazon. Once that happened, Jana sold its 8.2 percent stake for $300 million.