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Darden buys two seafood brands

Darden buys two seafood brands

Darden Restaurants Inc. has acquired two small seafood chains, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Wildfish Seafood Grille, in a $59 million cash transaction, the casual-dining restaurant company said late Wednesday.

The two seafood chains will become part of Darden’s Specialty Restaurant Group, which currently includes The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52. The Orlando, Fla.-based company expects to complete the acquisition with Eddie V’s Restaurants Inc., the owners of the two seafood brands, by the end of 2011.

Eddie V’s currently owns and operates eight Eddie V’s Prime Seafood restaurants and three Wildfish Seafood Grille restaurants in Arizona, California and Texas.

“Our Specialty Restaurant Group has been making an increasingly meaningful contribution to Darden’s sales and earnings growth,” said Clarence Otis, Darden’s chief executive. “Eddie V’s and Wildfish are an excellent complement, enabling us to capture incremental guests in an important segment of full-service dining. The group is now even more strongly positioned to help us achieve competitively superior, long-term profitable sales growth.”

Eddie V’s was founded in 2000 by Guy Villavaso and Larry Foles. Wildfish opened its first location in 2005.

“This deal offers tremendous opportunity for our management team and employees, and puts our brands even more firmly on a path to achieving their full potential,” said Villavaso and Foles. “For our employees, it means becoming a part of one of the world’s most successful restaurant companies. Darden’s culture and resources will enable Eddie V’s and Wildfish to prosper in a highly competitive industry."

Villavaso and Foles have agreed to provide consulting services for two years.

Under the new ownership, Jim VanDercook, Eddie V’s chief executive, will become president of the Eddie V’s and Wildfish brands, and will report to Gene Lee, president of Darden’s Specialty Restaurant Group.

“With the addition of the Eddie V’s and Wildfish brands, our Specialty Restaurant Group has an opportunity to achieve meaningful growth in the very attractive luxury seafood category,” Lee said.

“Guy, Larry and their team have done an outstanding job creating distinctive guest experiences that are comparable to The Capital Grille, but with an emphasis on fresh seafood,” Lee said. “Most importantly, these brands have a culture and focus that aligns very nicely with our own, which we believe will be an important factor in our ability to help them grow successfully.”

Darden also owns and operates Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse.

The transaction is expected to be neutral to Darden’s net earnings per share for the company’s 2012 fiscal year, Darden officials said.

Contact Alan Snel at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @AlanSnelNRN

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