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Wendy’s franchisees concerned about possible acquisition

Some Wendy’s franchisees said Tuesday they were unprepared for chairman Nelson Peltz’s possible plans to sell Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc., and fear it may become another distraction for the struggling chain.

Peltz, who leads Trian Management, a fund that holds a 23.5-percent stake in Atlanta-based Wendy’s/Arby’s, disclosed last week that he had received an expression of interest surrounding an acquisition of the parent restaurant company. Peltz said in a filing with securities regulators that he was entertaining the offer by an unnamed third party and would further explore the possibility of a potential sale.

Roger Webb, chairman of Wendy’s Old Fashioned Franchise Association, which represents more than 2,100 of the chain’s more than 6,000 locations, told Nation’s Restaurant News that the group had no idea Peltz, who purchased Wendy’s in 2008 in a long takeover battle, was entertaining an offer to sell the company.

“We’ve been very supportive of Wendy’s new management,” he said. “They’ve done some very positive, strategic things that have gotten us beyond some of the distractions of two years ago.”

Now, with talk of a potential acquisition of the parent company, Webb said, “We’ve got some more distractions cropping up.”

A spokeswoman for Trian Management said the fund would not comment. Wendy's/Arby's Group was not available to comment at press time.

Webb said the franchisee association would continue to monitor and assess the situation in the coming days and weeks.

“We didn’t know anything was going on,” he said. “Right now we’re tracking what’s going on, learning as things develop and evolve. Obviously we have a great interest in what happens, what impacts the parent company. We need to be very active in understanding what’s going on and what’s happening.”

When asked if he thought Arby’s poor performance was a reason for a possible sale of the company, Webb said, “We see their sales trends like everyone else does, and the public information out there doesn’t look too promising, does it?”

Arby’s has struggled for some time, reporting significant sales and traffic declines despite the rollout of new food items and a value meal menu. For the first quarter ended April 4, same-store sales at Arby’s plummeted 11.5 percent. Wendy’s posted a same-store sales gain of 0.8 percent.

Pam Farber, daughter of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas and executive director of the franchisee association, said her father would be disappointed over the potential sale of the company he built.

“I just honestly … there are no words to describe [this],” she said. “He loved, loved this business. One thing about my dad — it wasn’t about the money. It was about his passion and love for the business. Yeah, he had to feed his family, but he cared so much for his franchisees. This whole franchisee system is part of the Thomas family.”

The Wendy’s/Arby’s Group operates or franchises more than 10,000 restaurants worldwide. It was formed in 2008 when Triarc Cos. Inc., a company controlled by Peltz and the parent company to Arby’s, acquired Wendy’s for about $2.3 billion.

Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected].

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