Orlando, Fla.-based Red Lobster Seafood Co., the world’s largest seafood restaurant company, said it received a $575 million strategic investment from Bangkok, Thailand-based Thai Union Group PCL, the world’s largest producer of shelf-stable tuna products.
San Francisco-based private equity firm Golden Gate Capital, which acquired Red Lobster from Darden Restaurants Inc. for $2.1 billion in 2014, will remain majority owner and retain operational control of Red Lobster.
Red Lobster has 58,000 employees in over 700 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, with a growing international footprint, including a presence in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Mexico, and Japan.
Red Lobster was founded in 1968 by entrepreneurs Bill Darden and Charley Woodsby. In 1970, the company was acquired by General Mills, which spun off Darden Restaurants Inc. as an independent publicly traded company, including Red Lobster, along with Olive Garden and other sister chains, in 1995.
“Red Lobster is an iconic brand, with a leading market position in seafood casual dining and a world class management team, and has delivered strong performance since Golden Gate acquired the company in 2014,” said Thiraphong Chansiri, CEO of Thai Union Group. “This investment marks a strategic step to build Thai Union’s direct-to-consumer channel, and will enable us to benefit from the extensive restaurant industry expertise of both the Red Lobster management team and Golden Gate.”
Thai Union reported annual sales exceeding 125 billion Thai Bahts ($3.7 billion) and a global workforce of over 46,000 people. The company offers a broad variety of seafood including lobster, shrimp, sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon and crab. The company’s global brand portfolio includes Chicken of the Sea, John West, Petit Navire, Parmentier, Mareblu, King Oscar, and Rügen Fisch and Thai-leading brands Sealect, Fisho, Bellotta and Marvo.
“Thai Union is one of the largest and best-managed global seafood companies, and has been a trusted strategic supplier to Red Lobster for over 20 years,” said Kim Lopdrup, CEO of Red Lobster. “This close partnership will help accelerate Red Lobster’s strategy of being the best seafood specialist in every trade area we serve, bringing guests ‘sea-to-table’ quality seafood and a best-in-class dining experience at affordable prices.”
“Red Lobster has fantastic momentum, as the company has increased profitability each year since Golden Gate’s acquisition and guest satisfaction is at an all-time high,” said Josh Olshansky, managing director at Golden Gate Capital.
“We are pleased to welcome Thai Union as an investor in Red Lobster and look forward to leveraging their world-class supply chain and global presence and expertise,” added Josh Cohen, managing director at Golden Gate Capital. “Golden Gate remains a strong, supportive majority owner of Red Lobster and we’re very excited to continue to partner with Kim and the management team as the company executes its winning strategy.”
Golden Gate Capital has over $15 billion of capital under management. In addition to Red Lobster, representative retail/restaurant investments sponsored by the firm include California Pizza Kitchen, Eddie Bauer, Express, Pacific Sunwear, Payless ShoeSource and Zales.
J.P. Morgan acted as financial advisor to Thai Union.