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Commerce Bank founder buys into Saladworks

CONSHOHOCKEN Pa. One of the country’s wealthiest individuals, the retired founder of a national bank, has purchased a minority stake in the 88-unit Saladworks chain and will join the executive committee of the board of directors.

Vernon Hill, founder of the 450-branch Commerce Bancorp, made a major investment in the privately held Saladworks. His equity stake is second only to the John Scardapane, founder and chairman, the company said.

"It's really not about the money but the expertise that he brings to us," said Paul Steck, president of the chain.

Steck said Hill's investment would likely be used to secure good real estate and accelerate the company's franchisee growth. He noted that one of Hill's areas of expertise is real estate and site development.

Asked what it was that drove Hill to make an investment in Saladworks, Steck said the retired banker had long been watching the chain's development.

"He told us that he thinks we are at the tipping point where the right managers and utilization of invested capital could take us to the next level, as one of the industry fastest-growing companies," Steck said.

Steck said 500 to 1,000 units within the coming years is not outside the realm of possibility with Hill's counsel and investment.

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