Carlson buys stake in U.K. Friday's group

CARROLLTON Texas Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, parent of the T.G.I. Friday's and Pick Up Stix chains, said it teamed up with London-based ABN AMRO Capital to acquire the 45 Friday's units in the United Kingdom from Whitbread PLC for $137.8 million.

Richard Snead, president and CEO of Carlson, based here, said ABN would own 60 percent of the business and Carlson would control 40 percent.

"We are pleased to have secured ABN AMRO Capital's backing and look forward to a successful partnership," Snead said. "For the past 41 years [in the United Kingdom], Friday's has been a place where people can enjoy outstanding menu items, innovative beverages and a great experience, and we look forward to building on this terrific heritage in the U.K."

The first Friday's restaurant debuted in the UK in 1986 in Birmingham. This deal is expected to close in early March.

Whitbread said last year it was seeking to divest itself of its restaurant holdings, which also included Pizza Hut units, to focus on its own hospitality brands.

Alan Parker, chief executive of Whitbread, said in a statement: "This sale marks the completion of the review of our restaurants business announced last year. We are now a leaner, more-focused group, concentrating our management and capital on those businesses where we have owned brands with leading positions and strong growth prospects." Whitbread owns the Premier Travel Inn chain as well as Costa Coffee units and the Brewers Fayre and Beefeater pub-restaurants.

Carlson Restaurants Worldwide owns, operates and franchises more than 980 restaurants in 58 countries.