Wingstop Holdings, Inc., a corporation newly formed by Hartz Restaurants International, Inc. and Gemini Investors Inc., has purchased Wingstop Restaurants Inc., a chain of chicken wing eateries, from its owner and founder, Antonio Swad.

Gladstone Capital Corporation of McLean, Va., provided the senior debt financing to complete the transaction.

Wingstop, founded in 1994, owns, operates and is franchisor of 94 fast casual restaurants in 16 states. An additional 160 restaurants are currently under development in 24 states. With the transaction complete on Jan. 15, Wingstop has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Wingstop Holdings Inc., with its offices and management team remaining in Dallas.

“The power of the brand and its potential for growth drove this acquisition,” said George N. Samaras, chairman and chief executive officer of Wingstop Holdings. “Wingstop has doubled its restaurant openings every year for the past three years, and we expect to continue this rate of growth and achieve a national presence.”

Samaras enumerated some of the reasons behind the decision to purchase Wingstop:

* Segment leader – “Wingstop is already the leader in its segment. In 2003, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked us number one in the ‘Chicken Wings’ category and number five in the ‘Top 25 New Franchises’ ranking.”

* Broad market appeal – “Chicken is the number one consumed meat in the U.S., and we are convinced that chicken wings are a center of the plate item that is here to stay.”

* Unique – “Because Antonio Swad did an excellent job of creating such a unique and memorable product and atmosphere, the brand stands alone in its category and within the fast casual segment.”

* Focus – “Wingstop prepares only one entree, which allows us to have an intense focus on doing it better than anyone else. Our overall simplicity of operations facilitates our focus on quality.”

* Superior Unit Economics – Our compelling unit economics position Wingstop Restaurants at the very top of the industry, and provide exciting investment and growth opportunities for both single and multi-unit franchise operators.

“I could not have hand picked a better team to carry Wingstop forward,” said Swad. “They share my dream for the Wingstop brand and are a perfect complement to our existing management team. Now, I will be focusing on the national roll out of the Pizza Patron brand to the Hispanic communities and will begin development work on a new QSR concept.”

“We are excited to be backing one of the most compelling restaurant concepts in America,” said Jim Goodman, President of Gemini Investors. “We believe that Wingstop now has in place the management team and capital resources to enable it to continue its trajectory of very rapid growth.”

The Wingstop chain offers restaurants with a nostalgic, aviation-themed atmosphere where the sole focus is on chicken wings. Wingstop features eight proprietary wing flavors, including Original Hot, Cajun, Atomic, Mild, Teriyaki, Lemon Pepper, Hawaiian Barbeque and Garlic Parmesan. The wings are always made fresh-to-order and served steaming-hot. Wingstop also offers a variety of delicious sides including fresh-cut fries, soft drinks, beers and wine coolers.

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