Pearl Street Equity announced Wednesday that it acquired TCBY and Mrs. Fields, two dessert concepts that haven’t seen much U.S. retail expansion in recent years.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Ultimately, the brands apparently fall under the same owner. Z Capital, led by founder and CEO James Zenni, sold the chains to Pearl Street, which is also Zenni’s family office.
The two concepts, operated by Famous Brands Franchising, combine for more than 350 franchised locations in countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Morocco, Panama, Taiwan, and the Bahamas.
Growth challenges have plagued the chains for a long time. Capricorn Investors acquired Mrs. Fields in 1996 and later tacked on TCBY in 2000 for $140 million. During this transaction, TCBY had more than 3,000 retail locations globally and Mrs. Fields had around 530 units. This was in addition to Capricorn owning Great American Cookies, Pretzel Time, and Pretzelmaker. These three concepts were eventually sold to Nexcen Brands. Shortly afterward, Mrs. Fields Brands declared bankruptcy in 2008.
It almost went through bankruptcy again a few years later but The Carlyle Group and Z Capital stepped in as majority stakeholders.
In 2013, Z Capital bought out The Carlyle Group’s share. At the time, Mrs. Fields reportedly had 358 locations systemwide—240 in the U.S. and 118 internationally. TCBY had 518 units—360 domestically and 158 internationally. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Z Capital was looking to sell the two dessert chains, but nothing came of it.
As of July 2022, Mrs. Fields had 125 U.S. retail stores, a net decline of 26 units versus 2019. TCBY had 168 domestic shops, a net drop of 62 restaurants across three years. All units are franchised.
Famous Brands is led by president and COO Joe Lewis, who has 25 years of restaurant and retail experience at Smoothie King, Twist Brands, and Smalls Sliders. The executive will continue to lead the brands and “pursue opportunities to expand the global reach of two iconic brands, Mrs. Fields and TCBY, in both domestic and international markets,” Pearl Street said in a news release.
“We are thrilled about this new chapter for Famous Brands Franchising as a stand-alone company and are confident Pearl Street is the ideal strategic partner for the future,” Lewis said in a statement. “This transaction will take our franchisee support to the next level while enabling investment to grow both brands globally and bring our delicious products to more customers and families.”